Coronavirus VS the Flu: How Are They Different?

Coronavirus VS the Flu: How Are They Different?

The COVID-19 disease and the flu may cause similar symptoms, but these two are completely different. These illnesses both cause respiratory problems and are transmitted from person to person. So, many people may be confused and will think that the new coronavirus is just another type of flu. To make things clearer, this article will provide in-depth information on COVID-19 and the flu and how they are different.

Both the flu and COVID-19 are caused by viral infections. These viruses survive by invading living cells, which become host cells. These cells will then multiply and transfer to other cells in the body.

There are two kinds of viruses that cause the flu – Influenza A and Influenza B. Influenza A further has several subtypes. Meanwhile, there are different coronaviruses that cause respiratory problems and infections. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is responsible for the COVID-19 illness that is now considered a pandemic.



Source: ​Freepik

There are some differences in the symptoms of COVID-19 and flu. If you have the flu, the symptoms will generally appear between 1-4 days. But, if you have COVID-19, the symptoms will appear between 1-14 days. However, based on a 2020 research, ​the median incubation period for the new coronavirus illness is 5 days

Let us take a closer look at the symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu.

Incubation Period 1-14 days 1-4 days
Onset of Symptoms Gradual Abrupt
Cough Common Common
Fever Headache Common
Nasal Congestion Sometimes Sometimes
Runny Nose Sometimes Sometimes
Fatigue Common Common
Body Aches Sometimes Common
Sore Throat Sometimes Sometimes
Diarrhea Sometimes Sometimes
Headache Sometimes Common
Shortness of Breath Common Sometimes
Loss of Appetite Sometimes Common
Respiratory Issues Common Sometimes


Severity and Mortality

The symptoms of both flu and COVID-19 can be mild or severe. Both infections can also lead to pneumonia.

According to WHO, the mild cases of COVID-19 mean that the infected person does not require hospitalization. Mild cases include the following symptoms:

● Headache

● Sore throat

● Fever

● Fatigue

● Cough

● Nasal congestion

● Loss of appetite

In all reported COVID-19 cases, 5% are critical and about 15% are severe. In critical cases, a ventilator is required for patients to breathe. There is a higher chance of severe and critical cases of COVID-19 compared to the flu. The new coronavirus is also deadlier. There is a higher rate of mortality of this infection compared to the flu.


Source: ​Freepik

Both the flu virus and the SARS-CoV-2 virus can transmit through direct contact. An infected person can pass tiny droplets containing the viruses generally through the nose and mouth when they sneeze or cough.

The viruses can also thrive on surfaces, however, it is not sure yet for how long. It is believed that ​the coronavirus can last on surfaces for days​.

According to the CDC, infected people can spread the virus within six feet. So, you have to be at least six feet away from people who are sneezing or coughing to help avoid the spread of the COVD-19 infection.

The World Health Organization also noted that people who have the flu can spread the virus even before the symptoms appear. This is the same case with COVID-19.


Source: ​Freepik

Since flu is not new to us, it has more treatment methods. Moreover, many flu patients do not need medical treatment and if they do, doctors typically prescribe them antiviral drugs to alleviate the symptoms by one to two days.

Currently, antidrugs to treat COVID-19 are still not available and research is still on-going. As this illness is new, scientists need more time to study it. In the future, there will be more antidrugs available to treat COVID-19 when enough research has been done.

Fortunately, there are methods that can help in managing the coronavirus illness. For mild symptoms, healthcare experts may provide antipyretics to manage fever. People with mild cases are advised to stay at home and observe social distancing. For severe symptoms, people
may need mechanical ventilation or supplemental oxygen to treat serious respiratory problems, such as difficulty in breathing.


The best way to prevent flu is by getting vaccinated. There are various strains of the influenza virus depending on the season. Doctors will try to determine which influenza strains are common in a particular season to choose the right vaccines.

Source: ​Freepik

For COVID-19, there is no available vaccine yet. The best way to prevent contracting the disease is through the following:

● Social distancing

● Proper handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

● Bring alcohol or a hand sanitizer with 70% alcohol content, such as those from​ in case soap and water are not available

● Prevent touching the face

● Covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing

● Avoid gatherings and crowds

● Staying home when feeling sick

● Work from home, if possible


The flu and COVID-19 may share similar symptoms, but those who have the flu exhibit symptoms compared to those infected with the new coronavirus. COVID-19 is also more severe and has a higher mortality rate. Both viruses spread through direct contact, but the influenza virus spreads faster and is more common in children.

Since the flu has is not new, it is easier to treat and there are many treatments available. For COVID-19, it is new and there is no vaccine for it yet. The best way to battle this infection is social distancing and overall proper hygiene.

Author: HealthyLife | Posted on: April 13, 2020

Recommended for you

Write a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow us on Facebook