What You Need to Know
Getting sick this flu season comes with added worry. The COVID-19 pandemic is still spreading and will be circulating at the same time as this year’s flu. If you get sick in the coming months, how will you know if it’s the flu, COVID-19 or a less serious virus like a cold?
COVID-19 and influenza are both respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms, but they’re caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by a new strain of coronavirus (SARS CoV-2) and the flu is caused by influenza viruses. Both are spread mainly by droplets expelled when people with the virus cough, sneeze or talk.
While we're still learning about COVID-19, we do know it’s extremely contagious. Some infections are mild, but it can cause major health problems, leading to hospitalization and death. Because it’s a new virus that our bodies have not seen before, we have no immunity and the lasting effects are still unknown.
The flu is also a dangerous illness and can lead to serious complications — especially in seniors, babies, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems. Every year, millions of people in the U.S. get sick with the flu and more than 200,000 end up in the hospital, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The good news is you can get vaccines for both COVID-19 and the flu. However, you should avoid getting any other vaccines two weeks before and after getting vaccinated for COVID-19.