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As the number of new coronavirus cases continues to rise, people are clearing masks off the shelves in hopes of protecting themselves from the deadly virus. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Health officials have confirmed that there have been more people infected and dying from seasonal influenza (flu) than the coronavirus, however most people are in a panic about possibly being infected by the disease.
So what is the difference between coronavirus and the flu? Is there a difference in symptoms?
How Coronavirus and the Flu Are Similar
Coronavirus and the flu are both contagious respiratory illnesses. The two viruses are airborne, meaning that they can be spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing, and breathing.
Common symptoms between both viruses are fevers, coughing, shortness of breath and difficulties breathing. Severe cases of either virus can cause pneumonia, kidney failure and even death.
Preventive measures for both coronavirus and influenza include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, cleaning all “high touch” surfaces every day, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
How Coronavirus and the Flu Are Different
Coronavirus or COVID-19 is a group of viruses commonly found in both humans and animals. This new strain has not been previously identified in humans and it’s said to have originated in a food market in Wuhan, China.
Because the coronavirus is considered a “novel virus,” there is no specific antiviral treatment for it yet. A vaccine has not been discovered, but there is said to be one in the works.
So far the coronavirus has led to more than 100,000 illnesses and more than 3,000 deaths worldwide. These numbers are expected change as the death rate for COVID-19 appears to vary by location and an individuals age, among other factors. In the U.S. alone, the flu has caused an estimated 34 million illnesses, 350,000 hospitalizations, and 20,000 deaths this season according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The flu is caused by a number of different influenza viruses. An infected person will start to notice symptoms within the first two to three days of infection, while coronavirus symptoms appear two to 14 days after infection.
Treatment for the flu consists of prescribed antiviral medication and an annual flu vaccine can help reduce the risk of catching the virus. Because scientists have been studying the flu for years, they are able to develop treatment in response to mutating strains. However, most cases of the flu are treated primarily with plenty of fluid and rest as the virus runs its course.
Bottom line: Take care of yourself. Be mindful of your surroundings, personal hygiene and wash your hands regularly. It’s highly recommended that face masks be worn by people showing symptoms to help prevent the spread of the illness, so if that’s not you, please help free up medical supplies for people actually in need. Oh, and please wash your hands.