From an interview with
Dr. Michael Sperling
McLeod Primary Care Seacoast
Flu season is underway. And that raises a key question when you start coughing, feel fatigued and have a headache: Is it the flu or COVID-19? McLeod Primary Care physician Dr. Michael Sperling helps answer that question.
Here is a summary of Dr. Sperling’s comments:
The flu and COVID-19 are both respiratory illnesses with many similarities in terms of transmissibility and disease presentation. Some key differences between the two include, COVID seems to have a higher incidence in loss of taste and smell, which you don’t typically see with a basic influenza infection. There seems to be a higher incidence of lingering symptoms with COVID, as well. Many patients with COVID tend to have symptoms for weeks and even months afterwards. Flu typically lasts a couple days to a week. There also seems to be more GI-related symptoms in a lot of people, who contract COVID, as opposed to adults with influenza virus. These include diarrhea, abdominal pain and loss of appetite.
Both flu and COVID-19 are highly contagious. Both are spread similarly, through the air, through talking, sneezing and coughing in close contact with each other, specifically in areas where there’s a lot of people in a confined area. But they are different viruses. COVID-19 is short for coronavirus, an RNA virus. Whereas, influenza is a different type of virus.
The tricky thing about flu and COVID-19 is that there’s a lot of overlap between their symptoms: cough, fever, difficulty breathing, headache, muscle pains and fatigue. All of these symptoms overlap between influenza and coronavirus infections.
Both infections are dangerous if you’re considered high risk. However, at this point in time, it appears as though COVID is actually more dangerous in patients that are high risk.
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