FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Influenza season has begun, but since the flu has similar symptoms as COVID-19, it can be difficult to differentiate between the two viral diseases.
Here’s what you need to know:
“They both affect the respiratory tract so a lot of people can get them confused, a lot of the symptoms are the same,” said Dr. Ravi Johar, the Chief Medical Officer for United Healthcare in Missouri. “The biggest difference is probably that COVID is a lower respiratory illness and the flu is an upper respiratory illness.”
According to Dr. Johar, this means that people with the flu are more likely to experience a runny nose, a cough and mucus. On the other hand, one of the most notable symptoms of COVID is the loss of taste and smell.
“You don’t see that with the flu, so that’s one really easy way to be able to tell if you have that,” said Dr. Johar.
A fever, chills and body aches are all symptoms commonly present in both diseases. Dr. Johar also said that a flu is “far less” contagious than COVID-19 is, and that he believes the coronavirus is more dangerous.
“COVID has a much higher mortality rate, and there’s long-term consequences with COVID that we’re even just now beginning to understand that we don’t see with the flu,” said Dr. Johar.
Some of those long-term consequences include cardiac issues, continued headaches and difficulty breathing.
Although the symptoms of diseases do have some differences, the only way to be certain you have COVID-19 is to get tested. For anyone unsure if they should get tested or not, Dr. Johar recommends they contact their doctor.
“Check with them to make sure what they recommend. In most cases they will recommend that you at least get tested to make sure that you have one versus the other,” said Dr. Johar.
Dr. Johar’s advice to anyone looking to prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine. He said this year, it’s probably “more critical” to get the flu vaccine than it has been in any year because doctors don’t know what the interaction between flu and COVID-19 will be.
For information on COVID-19 testing locations, CLICK HERE.