The most striking feature about the rapidly rising coronavirus infection is that the symptoms of the disease start off with a cold, cough and high-grade fever, which are too similar to a flu infection. Hence, in the middle of panic-inducing information and Whatsapp forwards, it can get difficult to actually tell if what you have is a flu or coronavirus infection.
Are they similar?
For starters, both COVID-19 and flu are viral-borne infections and primarily spread through human-to-human contact, usually by means of respiratory droplets, coughing, phlegm. According to WHO, COVID-19 and the flu are both contagious viruses that cause respiratory illness and lead to symptoms such as nausea, shortness of breath, chest congestion, rise in temperature and if it gets difficult to contain, lead to pneumonia.
Although coronavirus and influenza virus showcase similar symptoms, they belong to different virus families. COVID-19, discovered in 2019 is a novel coronavirus, which wasn’t previously seen in human beings. As compared to this, flu, which is caused by the influenza virus was identified a long time back. Researchers also say that coronavirus is spreading and travelling faster than influenza and similar viruses.
Flu symptoms are more intense than those associated with a cold and usually come on suddenly, including a fever higher than 100.5 degrees, extreme exhaustion, severe muscle or body aches, a dry cough and chills.
It can be tough to actually tell the difference between an early coronavirus case, a severe cold or the flu. Only tests can identify whether it is coronavirus or the common flu. However, what really makes a difference is the time it takes for the symptoms to show up in cases. While cold and flu viruses take 2-3 days to develop once you contract the virus, coronavirus symptoms take anywhere from 2-14 days after being exposed to the virus, as per the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Which carries greater threat?
While doctors, scientists and researchers are still studying the novel coronavirus, flu still remains to be one of the biggest health risks in the world. There is also a big difference when it comes to their treatment. While there are flu vaccines available and medicines like oseltamivir (Tamiflu) available to lessen the risk and complications, there is no treatment, cure or vaccine in sight for COVID-19 yet. Several companies and health agencies are testing ways to target the virus and it will take a minimum of a year before we have the first such vaccine available to us. The only prevention remains to quarantine, screen and practice good hygiene practices to cut down the risk of infection spread.