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COVID-19 vs. Influenza (Flu)

SAR-CoV-2 (COVID-19) and influenza (flu) are both respiratory illnesses that can spread easily from person to person. At the height of flu season it may be difficult to determine whether symptoms are from COVID-19 or the flu. Therefore, anyone with symptoms should get tested, stay home and wear a mask around others.

For answers to some frequently asked questions about COVID-19 v. the Flu, read more below.

What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses common in both humans and animals that cause respiratory illnesses. COVID-19 is one type of coronavirus, emerging in late 2019. 

What are some other common respiratory illnesses?

COVID-19 is just one of many respiratory illnesses circulating in our community. Others include flu, respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, and rhinovirus, which is what causes the common cold. 

What are the symptoms associated with COVID-19?

Common symptoms associated with COVID-19 include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

How are the symptoms of COVID-19, the flu and strep throat similar? 

Unfortunately, symptoms related to COVID-19, the flu or strep throat -- which is caused by a bacterial infection -- can overlap quite a bit. These symptoms can also include fever, sore throat, cough, headache and body aches. 

Since these symptoms overlap, it is crucial to see your doctor if you think you have any of these symptoms. You will need to get tested for COVID-19, and may require testing for flu and strep as well. 

View Symptom Comparison Chart

Is COVID-19 or the flu more deadly?

The flu has a substantial impact on the U.S. each year, but COVID-19 has a higher rate of death associated with it.

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets from someone talking, coughing or sneezing. It’s also possible to get infected by touching a surface that has the virus and then touching your eyes or mouth. The flu is spread through respiratory droplets as well. However, COVID-19 has been found to spread more easily.

Who is at a high risk of getting sick from the flu or COVID-19?

Both the flu and COVID-19 can cause more severe cases in seniors, those with underlying medical conditions and pregnant people. The best way for these individuals to protect themselves is to get their flu shot and get vaccinated against COVID-19. Booster doses are also recommended and those who are immunocompromised may require a third dose

Does the flu shot protect me from COVID-19?

No, the flu shot does not protect you from COVID-19. But everyone should still get their flu shot because it will protect you against the flu. The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to get the COVID-19 vaccine, get a COVID-19 booster dose, wear a mask and continue to practice social distancing.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same time?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccines can be administered without regard to timing of other vaccines, including the flu shot. If you have any specific health concerns about getting both shots on the same day, please speak with your physician. 

Learn more about the flu

For the latest information, check out the CDC website.