Coronavirus and the Flu: Similarities and Differences 


Every year the seasonal flu enters our communities and homes uninvited and brings along with it moments of agony and discomforts whilst it stays. Our health takes a downward plunge and we find ourselves longing for brighter days. Over the years we got used to it so now we anticipate its arrival every year and take necessary precautions and measures to try and avoid it as much as possible. Flu vaccines, thanks to the efforts of able scientists and doctors, graced the medical world and we embraced it with arms wide open. Came 2020 and the world fell prey to a never-before-seen pandemic now popularly known as covid19 caused by the coronavirus, which brought life itself to a standstill. Thought both the flu and covid19 are respiratory ailments and are caused by viruses, both are different from each other. In this article, we will discuss in detail the similarities and differences between the 2 and how they can be tackled effectively.


What is Coronavirus

Coronavirus is the talk of the town since the commencement of the year 2020. The disease it causes named as Covid19 is highly infectious in nature and causes respiratory ailments ranging from mild to severe depending on the age of the person (1). The severity of the illness also depends on the health of the person who has contracted it. Those with underlying health issues like diabetes, chronic respiratory illnesses, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, etc are more susceptible to contract the illness and in some cases prove fatal to the infected person.

What is Flu

The flu, otherwise known as influenza, is a respiratory ailment that almost everyone is aware of and one that has lasted on the surface of the earth for decades. The signs and symptoms of flu are similar to those caused by the coronavirus, both initiating and causing discomfort to the respiratory tracts of people (2). The flu, being a viral infection lasts for one to two weeks depending on the age and immunity of the infected person and people usually recover in due time. It is caused by influenza virus types A, B, and C.

What Are The Similarities Between Covid19 and the Flu

Covid19 and the flu have considerable similarities. Some of them are as listed below:

  • Both covid19 and the flu are viral infections caused by the coronavirus and influenza type A and B respectively.
  • Both diseases are highly contagious and spread from person-to-person.
  • Both diseases cause respiratory ailments.
  • Both diseases are transmitted through droplets from an infected person to a healthy person when the former coughs, sneezes, speak, etc.
  • The coronavirus and flu both start off with tell-tale symptoms like runny nose, sore throat, fever, cough, tiredness and body aches.
  • Both types of diseases can range from mild to severe.
  • Coronavirus and flu can, in certain cases, lead to pneumonia and sometimes prove fatal for the infected person.
  • The diseases generally becomes severe in the case of those with a weakened immune system.
  • In some cases, both diseases lead to vomiting and diarrhea.
  • In both cases, on the onset of mild symptoms patients usually don’t require any hospitalization.
  • It is a point to be noted that both these infection-causing viruses can survive on surfaces and objects and when a healthy person touches these objects and touch their nose or mouth without washing their hands there’s a high probability for the person to contract the respective disease.

What Are The Differences Between Coronavirus and Flu

Although both the coronavirus and flu-causing viruses like influenza type A and B are highly infectious and show considerable similarities, certain differences set the 2 apart. Let us take a look at the differences between them:

  • The virus causing seasonal flu has a shorter incubation period once it enters a healthy person, whereas the virus causing covid19 can remain in the human body for up to 2 weeks before any signs or symptoms start to appear.
  • The successive case between patients having the flu is lesser as compared to those infected by the coronavirus. This period is also referred to as the ‘serial interval’ in medical terms. This means that flu spreads faster than the coronavirus.
  • In the case of seasonal flu, children are more likely prone to the illness as well as stronger carriers of the virus as compared to adults. However, with coronavirus adults seem more susceptible and hard-hit especially in the case of the elderly as well as those already battling underlying health conditions.
  • Those with flu may or may not get a secondary infection in the form of pneumonia but with coronavirus, doctors have generally observed that the latter, in most cases, leads to 2 secondary infections the cause of which is still being researched.
  • As of now, for battling influenza type A and B viruses, the flu vaccine has been formulated. However, no vaccine has been found to prevent coronavirus and its unprecedented spread at the moment.
  • Seasonal flu and its symptoms seem less deadly as compared to the coronavirus. As opposed to the former, a recent study conducted by the Chinese Centre For Disease Control and Protection noted that patients with a severe case of covid19, along with breathing difficulties experienced septic shock, respiratory failure and/or multiple organ failure.
  • Patients having the flu usually recover within 2 weeks of contracting the illness where those infected by the coronavirus may take 3-6 weeks in case of severe infections.
  • A study based in Lancet has concluded that people who have contracted the coronavirus remain contagious for a longer period and continue transmitting the disease for up to 20 days. However, those infected by the flu virus remain contagious only for about a week after symptoms appear.

Precautions To Be Taken For Covid19 and Flu

Owing to considerable similarities between coronavirus and influenza type A and B viruses, certain measures that need to be taken to prevent the spread of these contagious diseases are more or less the same. Listing below some simple common measures which needs to be followed to counter both diseases:

  • One should always maintain personal hygiene and what better way to start than with regular hand-washing. Always wash hands thoroughly with soap after a trip outside to get rid of the viruses present on one’s hand before touching the face, nose, mouth and eyes.
  • Keep handy an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that needs to be used whilst outside.
  • Cover mouth using a tissue, handkerchief or the crook of one’s elbow while coughing and sneezing.
  • During the viral infection season, keep a distance of at least 6 feet from an infected person so as to avoid contracting the disease through droplets when they cough or sneeze.
  • In case of the seasonal flu, get yourself the much-needed flu shots.
  • If someone feels sick it is always recommended to stay at home, rest it out and then venture into public gatherings.
  • Wearing medical face masks can help to reduce the spread of the diseases through coughing and sneezing so it is recommended to wear the same when venturing out during seasonal outbreak of viral infections. N95 respirator Masks comes to the rescue during such testing times. OxyBreath Pro mask works wonders towards this cause owing to its triple-layer air filtering mechanism. Doctors also have given the green signal to wearing at least cloth masks stating prevention is always better than cure.
  • Practice social distancing during the outbreak of epidemics. People need to work responsibly to prevent the spread of viral infections consciously by adhering to rules and directives put forth by medical professionals and the authorities.


Diseases are a part and parcel of our existence. Every individual in their lifetime experiences illness at least once and in most cases more than once in their lifetimes and as adults, it is up to us to behave responsibly to counter these illnesses. Medical professionals and healthcare workers work round the clock to ensure our good health and well being. So it automatically falls upon us to follow protocols during outbreaks and stay indoors to minimize and stop the spread of infectious diseases. Spreading awareness is key during such times. The more people are educated and informed the better for the community at large. Though this article throws light on the differences and similarities between coronavirus and the flu, understanding and reflecting upon the above, following the measures mentioned and adhering to the same truly works as the game-changer. Together these diseases can be fought and won over.

Leave a Comment