Fact or Fiction: COVID-19 vs Flu

One important difference between the viruses is that there is a vaccine for the flu.
One important difference between the viruses is that there is a vaccine for the flu.(Live 5/File)
Updated: Oct. 20, 2020 at 8:05 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Some people, including President Trump, have posted on social media throughout the pandemic comparing COVID-19 to the flu.

But how similar are the two viruses really?

More than 38 million Americans got the flu last year, according to the CDC, and 22,000 died from it.

Compare that to this year’s COVID-19 outbreak: At least 7.5 million cases and more than 200,000 Americans have died.

“While Covid-19 and influenza do share some of the same symptoms, COVID-19 is far more contagious than the flu and far deadlier, as proven by the current global pandemic,” Roper St. Francis Healthcare Dr. Melissa Ellis-Yarian said. “COVID-19 has been killing more than 1,000 Americans a day throughout the summer. The flu doesn’t do that. COVID-19 is much more dangerous than the flu. And anyone who downplays COVID-19 or tells you that it’s just like another virus either fundamentally misunderstands this virus or they are intentionally misleading you.”

Twitter and other social media companies have cracked down on blocking misinformation online about COVID-19.

One important difference between the viruses is that there is a vaccine for the flu.

Ellis-Yarian says public health officials are pushing for 65% of Americans to get their flu shot this year.

“Adding even a mild flu season to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could absolutely overwhelm our hospital systems,” she said. “We got very close to doing that in the summer with COVID-19... It really stretched our healthcare system. Now we’re entering cold and flu season. So it’s really important for us as a community to get our flu vaccines, to wear our face masks, to social distance and do whatever we can to decrease the spread.”

Flu and COVID-19 are both respiratory viruses.

The CDC says both can cause symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat and even stomach problems.

But “COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people,” the agency said. And the new coronavirus might include loss of taste or smell.

Someone with COVID-19 may be contagious longer, feel sick for longer and have a higher risk of serious complications compared to someone with the flu.

If you feel sick, Ellis-Yarian says to talk to your doctor and get tested. Health officials need to know how to treat you and if you should isolate while they continue to track COVID-19 cases in our community.

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