Difference Between Coronavirus and Flu

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Coronavirus and Flu

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Coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) is caused by a novel strain of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). The flu and COVID-19 are both respiratory diseases that can spread from one person to another. This article will explain the differences between COVID-19, and flu.

Coronavirus vs. Flu

Influenza (flu), and COVID-19 both are contagious respiratory diseases. However, they are caused differently by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused when a coronavirus, which was first discovered in 2019, causes it. Influenza viruses (flu) can cause flu. We know that COVID-19 spreads faster than the flu. To end the COVID-19 epidemic, it is important to increase the number of Americans who have received their COVID-19 vaccinations. You can find more information about COVID-19 vaccines, and their effectiveness.

COVID-19 may cause more severe illnesses than the flu. COVID-19 can take longer to manifest symptoms and can be contagious for longer periods. The following sections provide more information on the differences between flu, COVID-19 and other illnesses. Because they share some symptoms, it is impossible to tell the difference between COVID-19 and flu by simply looking at their symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis and determine the nature of the illness, testing is necessary. It is important to test for both the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously.

Although more information is being uncovered about COVID-19, the virus that causes it and its symptoms, there are still many things that remain unknown, including post-COVID conditions, also known as long COVID. This page presents the most current information on COVID-19 and flu.

Difference Between Coronavirus and Flu in Tabular Form

Parameters for Comparison Covid-19 Flu
Incubation Period 2-14 days 1-4 Days
Muscle pain Usually Sometimes
Diarrhea Sometimes Never
A new loss of taste and smell Usually (early -- sometimes without a runny, stuffy nose). Sometimes, especially if you have a stuffy nose.
Sore throat This is usually the case for individuals. People usually suffer from this period.
Vaccination Immunization is a must, especially for the elderly. There is no need for any special vaccinations. If the problem persists, medicine will be effective.
Chills Sometimes Common in most people

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses can cause severe respiratory problems in people. Because of their crown-like spikes at the virus' surface, they are known as "corona". Coronaviruses can cause illness in humans by causing severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and the common cold.

In December 2019, the first report of the new coronavirus strain -- SARS-CoV-2 - was made in Wuhan, China. Since then, it has spread to all countries in the world.

From where do coronaviruses originate?

Coronaviruses can be found in cats, dogs, and even camels. These viruses can live in animals but not infect them. These viruses can spread to other species. As they spread to other species, the viruses can change or become more dangerous. The virus can eventually spread from one animal species to another and infect humans. SARS-CoV-19 is believed to have been contracted at a food market where live and dead animals were sold.

How can you get COVID-19?

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. It enters your body via your nose, mouth, and eyes. This happens either directly from the droplets in the air or through the transmission of the virus from your hands. The virus then travels to your nasal passages and the mucous membrane at the back of your throat. It attaches itself to the cells and begins to multiply, eventually moving into lung tissue. The virus can then spread to other tissues in the body.

How is the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) transmitted from one person to another?

Coronavirus is most likely to spread:

  • When an infected person coughs or sneezes, talks or sings near them, the virus is released into the atmosphere as respiratory droplets. These droplets can be inhaled and you could become infected.
  • Coronavirus can also be contracted through close contact (touching, shaking hands with someone infected and then touching your face).

What is the maximum duration that COVID-19 can be considered contagious in a person?

It can take up to several or a few days for the symptoms to appear if you are suffering from COVID-19. However, you are still contagious. Your symptoms will subside 10 days later.

To avoid COVID-19 spreading to others, the best thing to do is:

  • When possible, stay 6 feet from others
  • When you are around other people, wear a cloth mask to cover your nose and mouth.
  • Make sure to wash your hands frequently. Use soap if you don't have soap.
  • Avoid cramped indoor spaces. To let in as much outdoor air as possible, open windows.
  • If you feel ill or have been diagnosed with COVID-19, it is best to remain at home.
  • Make sure that you are disinfecting surfaces that you are frequently touching.

Who's most at risk for getting COVID-19?

The most at-risk individuals for contracting COVID-19 are those who:

  • Any area that has an active spread is one you have lived in, or visited recently.
  • You have had contact with someone who has been confirmed or suspected to be infected by the COVID-19 virus. Close contact means being within 6 feet of an infected individual for a cumulative total 15 minutes or more during a 24-hour period.
  • If you are over 60 and have pre-existing conditions or a weak immune system.

What is influenza (flu)?

Influenza is a viral infection that causes respiratory infections. Influenza is most common in winter, and can easily spread from one person to another. In the Northern hemisphere, influenza season runs from October through May.

Most people who contract influenza feel sick for about a week. Then they feel better. Some people get the flu and develop more severe lung infections.

What are the symptoms and signs of influenza (flu)?

  • Sudden onset moderate to high fever
  • Dry cough.
  • Headache.
  • Itchy throat.
  • Chills.
  • Nose runny
  • Appetite loss
  • Muscle pain.
  • Tiredness.

Although many conditions are known as "the flu," they are not actually influenza. Since viruses other than flu can cause stomach flu, the term "stomach flu" is misleading.


Influenza viruses can travel in the air as droplets when an individual with the infection coughs, sniffles or talks. Either you can inhale the surrounded droplets or can also pick them up from an object (such as a door handles or telephone) and then transfer them into your eyes, nose, or mouth.

The virus is likely to make people contagious just from the starting day even from before symptoms start and ending around five days later. People who are having very weak immune systems and also children may be more contagious than others.

Influenza viruses change constantly. New strains are appearing all the time. Your body may have already produced antibodies to combat the strain of influenza you have had in the past. You can prevent future influenza infections from occurring by either getting vaccinated or having your symptoms tested. However, antibody levels can decrease over time.

Risk factors

These are some factors that could increase your chances of getting the flu.

  • Age. Seasonal influenza is most common in children aged 6 to 5 years, and 65 years or older.
  • A weak immune system. The immune system can be affected by long-term anti-rejection drugs, cancer treatments, organ transplants and HIV/AIDS.
  • Chronic diseases. Chronic conditions such as lung disease, diabetes, heart disease and nervous system diseases, metabolic disorders, asthma, diabetes, heart diseases, nervous system diseases, respiratory problems, airway abnormality, kidney, liver, or blood disease can increase the chance of developing influenza complications.
  • Pregnancy. Pregnant women are at greater risk of developing influenza complications, especially in the second and third trimesters.
  • Obesity. Flu complications are more likely to be affecting those with a higher body mass (BMI) valueing to more than 40.

Can you prevent influenza (flu)?

Yes. Yes. The flu vaccine will protect you from the flu throughout flu season. You can get the vaccine as either a nasal spray or shot. To be protected, you must have the vaccine administered every fall. The vaccine can prevent you from getting the flu, but it can make the flu more severe if you do. Even for pregnant women, the vaccine is safe. Some antivirals, such as Tamiflu and Relenza, can also be used to prevent flu from people who have been in close contact with flu-infected people.

The flu can be contagious so you may want to do other things to help prevent you from getting it.

  • Good handwashing hygiene is essential. Using soap and water is mandatory to wash your hands. Use an alcohol-based hand soap if you can't use soap and water.
  • Avoid socializing with people who aren't feeling well, especially if you have a fever.
  • Avoid loitering or being around any sick people as much as possible
  • Avoid touching your nose, eyes, or mouth.
  • Get enough sleep, exercise and eat well.
  • To support your immune system, you might consider taking multivitamins and vitamin D supplements. If you feel that you may need more vitamin D, ask your healthcare provider.

Who should have the flu vaccine?

Every 6 months old and older should receive an influenza vaccine. This will help you and your family to stay healthy. You are at risk of getting seriously ill with influenza if you have any of these conditions:

  • Lung disease.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Liver disease.
  • Neurologic diseases
  • Diabetes.
  • Heart problems
  • A condition that weakens your immune system or if you take a medicine that weakens your immune system. This can make it difficult for your body to fight off illnesses.
  • Blood disorders.
  • Obesity

If you are:

  • Are less than 2 years of age or older than 65 years.
  • Are pregnant and for 2 weeks after delivery
  • You must be under 19 years of age and take aspirin daily.
  • Living in a nursing home

While you can transmit influenza to other people if you work in a hospital, there is no higher chance of you becoming seriously ill. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all people over 6 months of age get flu shots if they have no contraindications. Even for those who aren't at high risk, this applies to them.

The flu and COVID-19 may be spreading simultaneously. If you aren't fully vaccinated, your local health department or the CDC might suggest additional precautions to lower your chances of getting COVID-19 and flu. You may be asked to social distance (physical distance) and keep at least 6 feet (2 metres) from anyone outside your home. A cloth mask may be required for indoor and outdoor activities. The CDC recommends that you wear a mask indoors, outdoors, in crowded areas, and when you come into contact with others who have not been vaccinated.

Main Difference Between Coronavirus and Flu in Points

Here's the primary difference between Coronavirus and Flu:

  • COVID-19 can make it take a person longer to feel symptoms than if they have the flu. A person can experience symptoms from one to four days after infection. A person might experience symptoms from 1 to 4 days after infection. However, symptoms may last anywhere from 2 to 14 business days.
  • A person with COVID-19 could be more contagious than someone who has flu. Flu symptoms are usually contagious for around one day.
  • Although the flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 are thought to spread similarly, COVID-19 is more contagious than the flu viruses. COVID-19 also has more super spreading events than flu. The virus that causes COVID-19 is capable of quickly spreading to many people, and can continue spreading as time goes by.


The symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are very similar. Flu symptoms tend to be more severe and occur quicker. However, COVID-19 is more likely than other flu symptoms to cause severe illness or even death. The spread of both viruses is via contact between people. Flu spreads quicker and is more likely in children. There are many effective antiviral treatments available for flu. These are being developed by scientists and researchers for COVID-19. However, vaccines and treatments are unlikely to be available anytime soon.

Social distancing is the best way to avoid COVID-19. This means that you should avoid any social contact and travel. Good personal hygiene is important. This includes washing your hands frequently and cleaning surfaces and utensils.

Both COVID-19, as well as the flu, are caused by viral infections. COVID-19, however, is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 viruses. Flu is caused by influenza A and B viruses.


  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/covid-19-cold-flu-and-allergies-differences/art-20503981
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/coronavirus-vs-flu


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"Difference Between Coronavirus and Flu." Diffzy.com, 2024. Fri. 24 May. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-coronavirus-and-flu-177>.

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