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COVID-19 vs. Flu: How Do They Compare? Part 2 

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Posted on September 15, 2020
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In our last blog post about COVID-19 versus flu, we covered some of the major differences between these two viruses. With flu season around the corner, it’s important to understand how these two viruses can be similar and different.


COVID-19 and influenza are both respiratory viruses that are passed through respiratory droplets from person-to-person. Both diseases can be prevented through wearing masks and social distancing because those practices make it less likely for an infected person to spread the disease.

While there isn’t a vaccine for COVID-19, there is one for flu. Annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone six months or older each and every year. To avoid overburdening our healthcare systems with flu and COVID-19 patients, flu vaccination is especially important during the pandemic. It’s also important because being sick with flu can make you more susceptible to other illnesses, such as COVID-19.


Both COVID-19 and flu can cause the same symptoms. These include:

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

However, one key difference in symptoms is that people with COVID-19 sometimes experience a change in or loss of taste and/or smell.

High-Risk Populations

Both COVID-19 and flu are more likely to affect certain people. While everyone can get sick with either virus, some may experience a more mild illness or have no symptoms despite being sick. The populations that are most likely to develop a severe illness from either virus include:

  • Older adults
  • People with certain underlying medical conditions
  • Pregnant people

High-risk individuals can experience longer illness durations, hospitalizations, lasting medical complications, and even death.

child in the hospital with the flu


Flu: One major difference between flu and COVID-19 is how they can affect children. Flu is often more deadly to children. For example, this past flu season, at least 188 children died of flu-related complications, although this number is likely higher because flu deaths are often under-reported.

COVID-19: Children can get COVID-19, although their cases are often more mild. Some children who get COVID-19 develop a rare condition called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). While MIS-C is still being studied, it is rare and many children have recovered.

To alleviate the burden of both viruses on our healthcare systems, it’s important to get an annual flu vaccine this season, practice social distancing, and wear a face mask in public settings.






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