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North Ohio Heart | Ohio Medical Group

Flu vs.

Human coronaviruses are common throughout the world. The most recent coronavirus, COVID-19, is very similar to the influenza virus. To help you understand both viruses a little better, this chart explains how the flu and COVID-19 are similar and how they are different.

*Our understanding of COVID-19 develops and changes daily. The information provided here is based upon what is currently known about the virus.

Flu vs. Coronavirus

How Are COVID-19 and the Flu Similar?

Both spread between people in close contact. The viruses spread through respiratory droplets or aerosols released through talking, sneezing or coughing.
Flu Spread

Both Can Live on Surfaces

These viruses can also spread if a person touches a surface with one of the viruses on it and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes.

Both Have Similar Symptoms

COVID-19 and the flu have many signs and symptoms in common. Not only are the symptoms similar, but you can also have both viruses at the same time.
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Tiredness
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting (more common in children than in adults)

Both Can Cause Serious Complications

Both COVID-19 and the flu can lead to serious complications. Many people with the flu or mild symptoms of COVID-19 can recover at home with rest and fluids. Some people become seriously ill from the flu or COVID-19 and need to be hospitalized.
  • Pneumonia
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Organ failure
  • Heart attacks
  • Heart or brain inflammation
  • Stroke
  • Death

How Are COVID-19
and the Flu Different?

What are the causes of COVID-19 versus the flu?

COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2).

The flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.

When do symptoms of COVID-19 appear versus the flu?

Symptoms of COVID-19 appear on average about five days after infection, but can range anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure. In addition to flu-like symptoms, COVID-19 may also include loss of taste or smell. 

Flu symptoms usually appear about one to four days after exposure.

How fast does COVID-19 spread versus the flu?

The spread of COVID-19 can begin as early as two days before symptoms appear and the virus can remain contagious for at least 10 days after.

People with the flu can spread the virus one day before symptoms appear and are typically most contagious within the first four days. They can remain contagious for about seven days.

Are there long-term effects of COVID-19 versus the flu?

Both COVID-19 and the flu can have complications such as respiratory failure or inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissues. Some more severe complications that can be associated with COVID-19 are blood clots and Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children. Current information shows that COVID-19 has a higher mortality rate than that of the flu.

Most people with the flu can recover within two weeks.

What drugs can be used to treat COVID-19 versus the flu?

While treatment options are being explored, no drugs are currently approved to treat COVID-19.

The flu can be treated with antiviral drugs. You can get an annual flu vaccine to help reduce your risk of influenza and serious complications.

Protect Yourself
From The Flu

The flu season will last until the end of March and cases occur as late as May. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine every year.

To get the flu shot, contact your North Ohio Heart/Ohio Medical Group primary care physician, or if you don’t have one, you can find a doctor online.