Coronavirus vs. the Flu

By Edo Paz, MD
Medically reviewed
February 23, 2020
Photo by Kelly Sikkema

One of the biggest challenges in containing the spread of COVID-19 is the fact that so many symptoms of COVID-19 overlap with symptoms of the flu. Both can result in fever, fatigue, weakness, cough, and shortness of breath. Both are highly contagious, can spread through airborne droplets (like when someone coughs or sneezes), and can result in serious complications, like pneumonia, respiratory and other organ failure, and death. However, probably the biggest difference between the two is that people in the U.S. are significantly more likely to have the flu than to have COVID-19.

The CDC estimates that since October of 2019, there have been between 29,000,000 and 41,000,000 cases of the flu in the US, resulting in 16,000 to 41,000 deaths. This dwarfs the 14 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the US so far. If you don’t lose sleep over the flu, then you don’t need to lose sleep over COVID-19, at least not yet. Regardless of the cause, you should see a doctor if your symptoms progress to include shortness of breath, severe muscle aches, or high grade fevers that do not improve with Tylenol or Advil.  You should also get checked out by a doctor if you’ve recently travelled to China or one of the other countries with heavy outbreaks of COVID-19.

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K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Edo Paz, MD

Edo Paz is the VP of Medical at K Health. Dr. Paz has two degrees in chemistry from Harvard and an MD from Columbia University. He did his medical training in internal medicine and cardiology at New York-Presbyterian. In addition to his work at K Health, Dr. Paz is a cardiologist at Heartbeat Health, a cardiology practice located in New York City.