Flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are virtually indistinguishable based on symptoms alone and a PCR test may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.
Both COVID-19 and flu can spread from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within approximately 2 metres). Both are spread mainly by droplets made when people with the illness (COVID-19 or flu) cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
It may be possible that a person can get infected by physical human contact, such as shaking hands, or by touching a surface or object that has virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
The flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 may be spread to others by people before they begin showing symptoms, with very mild symptoms or who never developed symptoms (asymptomatic).
If a person has COVID-19, it could take them longer to develop symptoms than if they had flu. Typically, a person develops COVID-19 symptoms 5 days after being infected but symptoms can appear as early as 2 days after infection or as late as 14 days after infection.
Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics but there are some key differences between the two. While both illnesses can cause a cough, a COVID-19 cough can be particularly severe. It is also unusual for flu to have long-lasting symptoms, while many people experience a slow recovery from COVID-19.
If you are experiencing symptoms of a cold, such as coughing, sneezing, a high temperature or a runny nose it is important to stay at home as COVID-19 can be transmitted by coughing and sneezing – droplet transmission. It is essential to get tested as soon as possible, as you will need to self-isolate for at least ten days if you have a positive COVID-19 test.
Due to many of the symptoms of COVID-19, flu and colds being so similar, the only way to confidently know for certain whether you have COVID-19 is by taking a PCR test. An increase in demand for free NHS COVID-19 tests has led to local shortages. Medwyn Occupational Health is now able to offer a home testing kit at a cost of £125. Lab results are usually available within 48 hours of the lab receiving the sample.
To download the symptom & flu checker as an A4 PDF, click on this here