December 01, 2020

COVID-19 versus the flu

Many similarities, key differences

The COVID-19 virus has been present for nearly a year, and is now overlapping with the seasonal risk of another virus that has been around for much, much longer — the flu (influenza) virus.

COVID-19 and the flu have many similarities. They're both contagious respiratory diseases caused by viruses that are spread through droplets or aerosols released into the air by talking, sneezing or coughing. These droplets can land in the mouth or nose of someone nearby or be inhaled. These viruses can also spread if a person touches a surface with one of the viruses on it and then touches his or her mouth, nose or eyes.

But there are differences. For example, flu season in North America typically occurs between the months of October and May, while COVID-19 does not appear to have a seasonal element. It's possible you could have both infections at the same time.

You can compare additional similarities and differences below. Keep in mind that both can be serious and potentially life-threatening infections, particularly in older adults and those with underlying medical conditions. Take preventive measures mentioned below, and don't neglect to get your annual flu vaccine.