Corona vs. flu: Here’s how to tell the difference 

Have you contracted corona or the flu? This is how to tell  the difference between them.

 Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the Coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on September 23, 2021.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the Coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on September 23, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Winter has arrived and with it winter diseases, which this year are going to cause some of us to get sick and disrupt our work and daily routines. Coronavirus, which has been around since March 2020, will now be joined by the flu, which is going to worry and confuse many people. How do you know if you have the flu or coronaWe have some answers.

Before the coronavirus era, if you suffered from a runny nose, loss of sense of smell, fever or a headache, you thought it was the flu. But now that we’re entering winter, how can you be sure you have the flu and not corona?

The bottom line is that you can’t really tell the difference. That’s because the typical symptoms of the flu are headache, sore throat and runny nose - the same symptoms as coronavirus.

Hospital staff in the coronavirus ward of Ziv Hospital (Credit: Flash90)Hospital staff in the coronavirus ward of Ziv Hospital (Credit: Flash90)

Symptoms

Flu is caused by a different virus strain than coronavirus. Still, most coronaviruses, like the flu, cause high fever, muscle aches, headaches, sore throats, runny nose and fatigue. People with corona  suffer from respiratory symptoms that cause coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and fever. The infection can also cause pneumonia, kidney failure and in the most severe cases death.

And what about the symptom most identified with the corona - loss of smell? 

Researchers from Europe whose study was published last year in the journal Rhinology found that when COVID-19 patients lose their sense of smell, it tends to be sudden and severe. In most cases they don’t have a stuffy or runny nose as most people with coronavirus can still breathe freely.

Another thing that sets them apart is the complete loss of taste caused by the loss of smell, which plays a large part in the ability to distinguish flavors. Coronavirus patients who actually experienced loss of taste couldn’t distinguish between bitter or sweet.

Onset of Infection

Both flu and corona are transmitted from person to person mainly through a droplet spray (aerosols) emitted by coughing, sneezing and when people speak. Of course people try not to spit when they talk, yet some microscopic droplets can escape.

Still, in most people, flu symptoms usually peak within a day or two of being infected, while a person can show signs of corona from two and up to 14 days after exposure. In both diseases, a person may start spreading the virus at least a day (and sometimes more) before the onset of clinical symptoms, but the duration of infection in corona patients is longer than that of influenza.

The Solution: Vaccines

The best solution, which may still make you wonder which virus you have, is to get vaccinated against both diseases. Don’t worry about receiving both vaccines.

The coronavirus vaccine is given through three injections containing mRNA (the last is a booster). According to large and recent studies, it has almost no side effects. 

A member of the medical team at Mir Medical Center receives a coronavirus vaccine (Credit: Flash90)A member of the medical team at Mir Medical Center receives a coronavirus vaccine (Credit: Flash90)

Influenza vaccination is performed by injecting an attenuated virus into the arm. It’s recommended for everyone, but especially for at-risk populations, such as children over the age of six months, pregnant women, immunocompromised people and the elderly. The vaccine is completely safe and the side effects are usually soreness in your arm where the vaccine was injected.

Also, a recent clinical trial in the United Kingdom by the University of Bristol found no sign of danger in receiving the flu vaccine alongside the coronavirus vaccine - results that support research findings from the US health authorities.

Long-term Effects

Almost everyone who has had the flu knows that once the disease is over, it leaves no symptoms and you can return to your daily routine. With Corona, it’s completely different. True, no one wants to wait until after the illness to know how they’ll feel, but this will give you an idea of what to expect.

Researchers from the University of Oxford, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the Oxford Biomedical Research Center (BRC) recently conducted a study on the extent of the post-Corona problem, or long-COVID, after examining more than 270,000 people who have recovered from the virus. 

The study found that in 37% of recovering patients at least one persistent symptom of corona was diagnosed three to six months after infection.The most common symptoms were breathing difficulties, abdominal symptoms, fatigue, pain and anxiety or depression.