Since the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 has been referred to by many people as just a more severe version of influenza. This often harms people’s view of the virus, and it causes some to take it less seriously than it needs to be. While this may be true in some aspects, COVID-19 has some differences that sets it apart from the regular flu that makes its rounds almost every year.
One of the key differences is the severity and number of symptoms that infected people with coronavirus experience. While the flu can often cause many of the same symptoms as COVID-19, it does not often inflict as many of those symptoms at once. Coronavirus also fluctuates between being extremely serious for some people and barely noticeable in others. In this way, COVID-19 can be similar to the flu in the cases where symptoms are more severe. However, one of the key indicators that someone is infected with coronavirus is a significant loss of taste and smell, a symptom not shared with influenza.
Coronavirus symptoms take much longer to start to affect the infected person. While the flu symptoms appear within one to four days after infection, COVID-19 symptoms take an average of five days to show. Sometimes the symptoms can even take up to 14 days before an infected person feels any symptoms. This poses a much higher risk for spread of the COVID-19 virus than the influenza virus because contagious people may not know that they are carrying the virus for a much longer period of time, while still going about daily life amidst the pandemic world. COVID-19 is also contagious for up to an extra week longer than influenza once someone starts to show symptoms.
Both influenza and coronavirus share many complications that can be caused if someone is infected with the virus, including pneumonia, sepsis, and respiratory failure. However, COVID-19 infection has been shown to cause much more severe complications and increase the risk of developing other illnesses or problems. In addition to increased risk of developing other illnesses, COVID-19 has caused blood clots and Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). As demonstrated by its name, MIS-C has appeared in increasing rates in children after they have contracted coronavirus. MIS-C causes inflammation in different parts of the body, which can include the heart, lungs, kidneys, and brain.
Treatments and Vaccines
While influenza has FDA-approved antiviral treatments for more severe cases, there are no drugs approved by the FDA to treat coronavirus. However, remdesivir is a possible antiviral treatment for COVID-19 currently being researched on its effectiveness at decreasing the severity of symptoms. In the realm of vaccines, as many as four vaccines for influenza are developed by scientists every year to treat new possible strains of the flu. While the development of two new vaccines for COVID-19 in less than a year is impressive, there is much less information known about how coronavirus spreads and all of the ways to treat and prevent the virus.
Ultimately, the coronavirus and influenza have many similarities. In some ways, COVID-19 can be referred to as a more severe form of the flu, but referring to it in this way makes it seem less serious than it truly is. This language can be damaging, as this virus should be treated very seriously to slow the spread and save lives. While the vaccines for COVID-19 may be newer, it is important to take civic responsibility and get vaccinated to ensure the safety of those who are at a high risk.