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COVID-19 or Flu? The CDC’s guide to telling the difference

The CDC currently recommends masks that have multiple layers of cloth with higher thread counts.
The CDC currently recommends masks that have multiple layers of cloth with higher thread counts.
Published: Nov. 13, 2020 at 3:47 PM AKST|Updated: Nov. 13, 2020 at 8:50 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Both are contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. There’s a flu vaccination but while scientists are desperately trying to obtain one, no COVID-19 vaccine for public use yet.

The United States seems to be breaking pandemic records daily, as hundreds of thousands of new cases are reported daily. Fall and winter are also flu season, with the most flu activity occurring December through February.

With many similarities between the viruses how can people tell the difference? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a list of similarities and differences between COVID-19 and the flu, hoping to better help the public determine the cause of their illness before deciding to get tested.

According to the CDC, both COVID-19 and the flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches, headache, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

With all those similarities, the difference may be hard to spot, but it’s there. The CDC says that, unlike the flu’s mild symptoms, COVID-19 causes more serious symptoms and often includes a loss of taste or smell.

There is also a key difference between how long symptoms appear after exposure and infection. The CDC says that with the flu, symptoms can appear anywhere from one to four days after infection. But with COVID-19, symptoms can appear five days after being infected, but can also appear as early as two days after infection or as late as 14 days after infection.

Most people with flu are contagious for about one day before they show symptoms. But people with COVID-19 remain contagious for at least 10 days after signs or symptoms first appeared.

To read more about key similarities and differences, including complications and approved treatments for both viruses, visit the CDC’s website.

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