The influenza virus, also known as the flu, and the coronavirus / COVID-19 are both infectious respiratory diseases, and while the symptoms of both are similar, the two illnesses are brought about by different viruses. Learn more about the similarities and differences of the flu and COVID-19 below and find all of the up-to-date information on COVID-19 at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
View our comparison chart showing the differences between COVID, allergies, cold and flu.
Similarities: COVID-19 and the Flu
- The flu and COVID-19 can both cause symptoms of fever, cough, body aches, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.
- Both illnesses can be mild or severe, even fatal in rare cases.
- Both can result in pneumonia, where you should seek medical assistance.
- The flu and the coronavirus can be spread from person to person through droplets in the air from an infected person's cough, sneeze or talking.
- An infected person can go several days before their symptoms appear for either the flu or COVID-19.
- Antibiotics do not treat the flu or the coronavirus. Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections.
- Addressing symptoms like taking medicine to reduce a fever may help treat both the flu and COVID-19. Hospitalization may be required for severe cases.
To prevent both the flu and the coronavirus / COVID-19, put these practices in place: frequently, and thoroughly, wash your hands; cough into the crook of your elbow; stay home when sick; wear a mask when you go out and limit contact with people who are infected.
Differences: COVID-19 and the Flu
The coronavirus COVID-19 is caused by one virus, while the flu is caused by any of several different types and strains of influenza viruses.
While both the flu and COVID-19 may be transmitted in similar ways, the one possible difference is COVID-19 may be spread through airborne means ( tiny droplets still in the air could cause disease in others even when the infected person has left the area).
With COVID-19, there are currently no antiviral medications, but antiviral medications are currently being tested to see if they can address symptoms. Antiviral medications can address symptoms of the flu and sometimes shorten the length of the illness.
At this time there is not a vaccine for the coronavirus / COVID-19, although it is in progress. There is a vaccine available for the flu that effectively prevents and reduces the severity of the flu.
To track cases globally, please visit Johns Hopkins.