DO I HAVE CORONAVIRUS OR FLU? What’s the difference between COVID-19 and influenza, the #1 symptom that sets them apart

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s considered to be the worst timing ever in the medical world – the coronavirus outbreak right in the middle of flu season.

So, the question is, how do you tell them apart?

Dr. Andrew Myers is a physician at Tampa General Hospital who specializes in internal medicine. He tells 8 on Your Side teams at TGH are seeing a lot of people with high anxiety about COVID-19. 

“They’re really hard to tell apart, you come in with the same things, not feeling well and fever,” said Dr. Myers. “We call them flu-like symptoms for a reason.”

That’s why people are especially concerned during this outbreak. The symptoms are so similar to the flu.

“Things like fatigue, fever, sweats, cough,” said Dr. Myers when asked about symptoms the two have in common.

And, since we’re in the middle of flu season, it presents the perfect storm for physicians. When a patient comes in with symptoms so similar, Is it the flu or is it coronavirus?

There is a major difference, according to Dr. Myers, between the flu and coronavirus.

The flu will hit you like a ton of bricks. It is swift and sudden.

“With the flu, one day you wake up and you feel awful. You can’t get out of bed, you have fever, sweating, you feel terrible,” Dr. Myers told 8 on Your Side. “Coronavirus comes on much slower, you won’t feel as bad as fast it usually takes several days before someone seeks medical attention, whereas the flu is typically immediately you get it and can’t get out of bed.”

COVID-19 will usually makes a patient feel general malaise for a period of a few days.

“Usually with COVID, people don’t feel well for a day or two, they just say, you know I’m going to go visit my doctor, I don’t feel great,” Dr. Myers explained.

Also, coronavirus does not seem to be infecting children. Parents are understandably worried, but at this time, physicians are assuring the public that the people most at risk are those over 60, and the biggest at-risk category is those over 80. 

Dr. Myers says, for reasons unknown, COVID-19 is not running rampant in children. Scientists are still studying the reason why.

Whether it’s coronavirus or flu, Dr. Myers says the response should be the same. Seek medical attention and do not delay.

“If people have questions, they should ask if they feel sick, they need to see a doctor,” Dr. Myers said. “I would say, the biggest issue that we see is fear of the unknown, which is probably the hardest thing for anyone to deal with.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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