Find the Difference
COVID-19 and the common flu exhibit many of the same symptoms. In the monsoon season, it is difficult to distinguish between the common flu and COVID-19, but we must learn to do so. This article highlights the key differences between the two infections in all aspects. This knowledge ensures that people get the appropriate medical attention at the right time.
The COVID-19 pandemic calls for increased awareness about contagious respiratory illnesses. As the monsoon season sets in for most parts of India, it is even more crucial that we learn to distinguish between COVID-19 and the common cold or flu.
The most basic difference is that the COVID-19 is caused by a novel strain of the Coronavirus while the common cold is caused by the Influenza virus. COVID also has a faster rate of spreading than the flu does. This spread is decreasing right now owing to the massive vaccination efforts of the government.
Much of the symptoms of COVID and flu are similar. It needs testing to determine which disease it is. There are also cases where an individual is infected with both COVID and the flu. However, there are plenty of distinct differences which we shall discuss below.
Know the Symptoms
The common symptoms between COVID and the Flu are fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, blocked or running nose, headache, vomiting, body ache, and diarrhoea. COVID infected people additionally exhibit a new change in or loss in sense of taste and smell. There is also extensive scarring that might occur in the lung tissue along with phlegm congestion in the lungs. There are always new symptoms showing up as new strains of the virus start spreading. The CDC is constantly updating the list based on findings from worldwide focus groups.
Appearance of Symptoms
Both flu and COVID take some time to present the symptoms. Flu infected patients take about 1 to 4 days post-infection to exhibit symptoms. Typically COVID infected patients take about 5 days to show symptoms. But in some cases, the symptoms have manifested up to 14 days after infection. People with flu are contagious for about 7 days post-infection. When infected with COVID, people can be contagious for about 10-20 days post-infection.
Spread of Infection
Both the flu and COVID virus are spread through close contact and inhalation of the air-borne virus. COVID-19 is generally more contagious than the flu virus. In the case of COVID, some asymptomatic individuals are still capable of spreading the virus. It also spreads far more easily as is evident from the recent pandemic.
Elderly people, people with existing co-morbidities, infants, children, and pregnant women are generally at high risk of infection. But hospitalisation in the case of flu is very rare, as it is treatable at home. But COVID can cause severe illness in these people. It can lead to hospitalisation and even be fatal if not addressed at the right time. Some people go on to develop post-COVID effects that may affect the immune system permanently.
The resulting complications from both COVID and the flu are pneumonia, respiratory failure, fluid in the lungs, cardiac injury, multiple organ failure, inflammation, sepsis, and worsening of existing medical conditions. They also become prone to secondary infections.
Most people infected with flu recover in a few days and secondary infection is more common in flu patients. COVID on the other hand can additionally cause blood clots in the veins and arteries of the lungs, heat, legs, or even the brain. It can also cause Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children. Sometimes the symptoms of COVID can last for months and is referred to as long COVID.
There are FDA approved drugs for the treatment of flu. Patients are treated with anti-viral drugs immediately after the onset of illness. In the case of COVID, there is only one approved drug that passed clinical trials in a short period. The FDA issued emergency use authorization for Remdesivir to treat COVID-19. The rest of the treatment protocol involves trying to suppress or mitigate the symptoms.
There are also multiple FDA-approved vaccines for the flu and there are 3 COVID-19 vaccines. There are other vaccines still in development for both.
Seeking Medical Help
The flu is usually cured through over the counter drugs, nutrient-rich food, and plenty of rest. People generally do not seek medical help for flu. In certain cases of low severity, COVID patients have also been advised to follow the same routine with symptomatic treatment. However, if you experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the chest, brain fog, extreme fatigue, greyish skin and lips, etc… then seek immediate medical help. Ensure that you notify the first responder that you are COVID infected.
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