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Flu vs Coronavirus: What You Should Know

You have a cough and a fever. You think it’s probably the flu. But with more than 8 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., there’s a chance it could also be COVID-19.

There are several key differences, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among them: COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than the flu and causes more-serious illnesses in some people. It can also take longer for people to show COVID-19 symptoms, and many people are contagious for longer.

The symptoms of both viruses are similar, however. This makes it hard to tell the difference based on symptoms alone, according to the CDC, which says diagnostic testing is the best way to determine whether you are sick with the flu or COVID-19.

Here are five things to know on the differences between COVID-19 and the flu:

The Symptoms

Both COVID-19 and the flu have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. Common symptoms shared by COVID-19 and the flu share include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

The difference is COVID-19 seems to cause more-serious illnesses in some people, the CDC says. Other signs and symptoms of COVID-19, different from flu, may include change in or loss of taste or smell.

With both viruses, a day or more can pass before an infected person starts to experience symptoms. Typically, though, it takes coronavirus symptoms longer to appear.

With the flu, a person usually develops symptoms anywhere from one to four days after infection. COVID-19 symptoms usually take longer to appear; a person typically develops COVID-19 symptoms five days after being infected, though symptoms can appear as early as two days or as late as 14 days after infection.

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