Is it COVID-19 or the flu?
COVID-19 and Influenza (Flu) are both contagious respiratory illnesses (illnesses affecting your breathing system) and while the symptoms can be similar, the two are caused by different viruses. Here’s how to tell if it’s COVID-19 or the flu.
What causes COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2). It’s an infectious disease that spreads mainly through droplets of fluid from your respiratory system – like saliva and mucus from your nose. These droplets can stay on surfaces for a long time, making it easily transmittable.
What causes the flu?
The flu is caused by the Influenza viruses which affect the nose, throat, and lungs. Just like COVID-19, the virus is spread when people with the flu come into close contact with others and fluid droplets containing the virus make contact with their noses or mouths.
Symptoms that COVID-19 and the flu have in common
Both COVID-19 and the flu have very similar signs and symptoms. Symptoms of both viruses can be severe or non-existent (asymptomatic), but some of the common signs include:
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Runny or stuffy nose
Fever and/or chills
Muscle pain or body aches
In some cases, vomiting and diarrhoea (this is more common in children)
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms I’ve mentioned, then it’s important to isolate and speak to a healthcare professional about getting tested for COVID-19.
How does COVID-19 differ from the flu?
COVID-19 spreads a lot easier than flu and can cause more serious illnesses in some cases. While COVID-19 and the flu are spread in similar ways, it can take a lot longer before people infected with COVID-19 to show symptoms (some don’t show symptoms at all) and they can be contagious for longer.
Complications associated with COVID-19 include blockages in the veins and arteries (tubes that help blood circulate from the heart) of the lungs which can lead to difficulty breathing and even death.
Since some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on looking at symptoms alone, so you’ll need to get tested for a proper diagnosis. The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to wear your mask and practice social distancing in public, and avoiding any non-essential (not necessary) social contact or travel. It’s also important to maintain good personal and domestic (home) hygiene by washing your hands regularly with soap and water or using a hand sanitiser and keeping all surfaces and utensils clean.
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