The flu season peaks annually from December to February. This year has seen a marked decrease in seasonal infections even as the COVID-19 pandemic surges on. Influenza and COVID-19 are both severe and contagious respiratory illnesses, which affect your lungs and breathing. Even though they both present very similar symptoms, they are caused by two entirely different viruses. 

A Decrease in Influenza Rates

The COVID-19 virus has taken the lives of approximately 1.5 million people and affected 67 million people worldwide. Tackling the COVID-19 virus and the influenza virus simultaneously was proving to be a topic of great discourse and marked fear. Usually, when December arrives, so does the annual flu season. However, this year there has been a marked decrease in the flu rates, dropping to a historically low percentage in the US. 

Health care workers and other specialists say that this decline in flu rates could be attributed to the decline of people coming to clinics to get themselves tested. Other reasons could be the stringent rules being in effects such as several lockdowns, social distancing and wearing masks in public spaces. The fear of the COVID-19 virus, being far deadlier than the influenza virus made people take extra precautions and sanitary measures leading to the decline of the flu. It is important, however, to know the similarities and differences between COVID-19 and the flu, to further protect yourself. 

Similarities Between COVID-19 and the Flu

Symptoms:

  • Both of the illnesses can cause symptoms such as body ache, headache, sore throat, coughs and sometimes even vomiting and diarrhoea, especially in children. 
  • They can be mild, severe and even fatal if the diseases progress further without medical intervention.
  •  A person can be an asymptomatic carrier, meaning they show none of the above symptoms but can still transmit the disease unknowingly. 

The Spread of the Virus:

  • They spread similarly with droplets or smaller particles of the virus transmitting from a sick person to other people nearby. Some of the particles may even linger in the air, and another person may inhale them and become infected.
  • It can also spread by people touching infected surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose and mouth. 
  • It is possible to spread the virus at least one day before experiencing symptoms.

Treatment and Prevention:

  • The diseases are not treatable with antibiotics, which only work on bacterial infections.
  • Since there is no immediate cure, they are both treated by addressing symptoms, such as reducing fever, headaches and body aches. Severe cases may require hospitalization and the person may need a ventilator.
  • Antiviral medications are prescribed which may shorten the duration of both illnesses.
  • The diseases can be prevented by wearing a mask, frequent and thorough hand washing, covering of the mouth while coughing, staying home when sick and limiting contact with people who are infected, and social distancing.

Vaccines:

  • The FDA has approved a couple of Flu shots to be taken by individuals aged 6 months and older. It is advised to take these shots as it helps strengthen your body’s immune system to be able to fight the virus. 
  • A COVID-19 vaccine which was in the works has also been recently made available for those wishing to take it. Our earlier blog post talks about the mRNA vaccine in more detail.

Differences Between COVID-19 and the Flu

Cause:

  • COVID-19  is caused by the novel coronavirus also known as SARS-CoV-2 whereas Influenza is caused by the influenza virus, which could be of a variety of types.  

The Spread of the Virus:

  • While both of the viruses spread similarly, COVID-19 has proven to spread more among certain age groups and populations as compared to the flu.
  • COVID-19: A person can spread the virus for about 2 days before experiencing symptoms and remaining contagious for 10 days post their first symptoms.
  • Influenza: Most people with the flu are contagious for about 1 day before they start showing any symptoms. 

Treatment and Prevention:

COVID-19: Antiviral drugs are being administered to most patients, with other treatments being tested out to see if they can improve the symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness. 

Influenza: Oral antiviral drugs approved by the FDA are administered to patients. 

If you get sick with the flu or COVID-19, it is best to get checked at the earliest, especially for certain people with high-risk complications such as young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions. Get tested for COVID-19 at Buckhead Medicine at the earliest. You can even schedule routine check-ups at our medical practice, book online appointments or avail our concierge services. We at Buckhead Medicine do our best to ensure our patients’ safety. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more updates.