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How coronavirus differs from influenza: Symptoms to watch for this flu season

With another respiratory-healthseason just around the corner and infectious-disease variants continuing to spread across the U.S., health officials are warning Americans to take caution.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that “reduced population immunity due to lack of flu virus activity since March 2020” could result in an early and potentially severe flu season.

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The CDC is encouraging residents not to wait for a resurgence in flu activity to get a vaccine and advises vaccinations before the end of October. Flu vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same time and individuals can possibly be infected with the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously as well. 

Some symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea and a change of loss of taste or smell. 

Dr. Shawn Nasseri, ENT surgeon based out of Beverly Hills, reiterated the “virtually invisible” flu season in 2020 given public health measures taken during the pandemic. However, following the return to in-person learning this year, Nasseri told Fox News that doctors are seeing many patients with overlapping symptoms stemming from seasonal allergies, colds, influenza and COVID-19.

“We really worry when kids especially stack viral infections,” he said. For kids, COVID-19 symptoms often include nasal congestion, runny nose, headaches, pressure over the eyes, conjunctivitis, and an earlier onset of that “wet cough” compared with the flu. In adults, COVID-19 can bring body aches all over while the flu brings body aches to the neck and shoulders, he said, adding that the loss of smell is a red flag for COVID-19, however.

Aug. 31, 2021: Jack Kingsley R.N. attends to a COVID-19 patient in the Medical Intensive care unit (MICU) at St. Luke's Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho. 

Aug. 31, 2021: Jack Kingsley R.N. attends to a COVID-19 patient in the Medical Intensive care unit (MICU) at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho. 
(AP Photo/Kyle Green, File)

According to the CDC, COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than the flu and can lead to more serious illness in some people. 

“COVID-19 can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer,” the agency wrote on its website. 

In order to confirm a diagnosis, testing is necessary and while symptoms may be similar treatment options vary. 

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The flu vaccine is not designed to protect against COVID-19, though flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death.

According to recent NCHS (National Center for Health Statistics) mortality data, 19.4% of deaths that occurred during the week ending on August 28, 2021 were due to pneumonia, influenza and/or COVID-19. Among those more than 4,000 deaths, 3,248 had COVID-19 listed as an underlying or contributing cause of death on the death certificate and three listed influenza.

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In order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the CDC says Americans should get vaccinated as soon as possible, wear a facemask over their nose and mouth, stay 6 feet away from others, avoid crowds and poorly-ventilated spaces, wash their hands, make sure to clean and disinfect surfaces and objects and cover coughs and sneezes. 

To prevent the flu, the CDC advises getting a flu vaccine, avoiding close contact with others, covering coughs and sneezes, avoid touching eyes, noses and mouths, cleaning and disinfecting and washing hands often.

Fox News’ Kayla Rivas contributed to this report.

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