COVID – 19 vs Influenza: How to differentiate

Dr Salvin George, Specialist Internal Medicine, Medcare Hospital, Al Safa

Dr Abhilash Ramachandran Nair, Specialist – Internal Medicine , Aster Hospital, Qusais

Influenza infection and COVID - 19 have a very similar presentation. Stuffy nose, sore throat, body ache, headache and cough are some of the common symptoms. COVID - 19 however, causes loss of smell and taste, which if present are more specific while headaches and body aches are significantly more severe in COVID - 19 infections.

The only way to differentiate between the two is through testing. Repeated tests are sometimes necessary to completely rule out COVID - 19.

Flu symptoms with a history of exposure to known cases of COVID - 19 or public places like malls, shops, metro, buses or offices within the past week should warrant a COVID - 19 testing.

We have to also bear in mind that COVID - 19 can be asymptomatic especially since usage of masks have become widespread. History of close contact with an individual with known COVID - 19 infection should prompt testing in vulnerable individuals (pregnant women, elderly people or individuals with serious heart disease, uncontrolled diabetes, certain chronic lung diseases, chronic liver disease, chronic kidney disease, immunocompromised conditions because of certain medications or diseases) and people who are care givers of such individuals.

Undiagnosed fever or cough in anyone should prompt a COVID - 19 PCR test.

Most of the symptoms listed above qualify as initial presentations for both Influenza and COVID - 19.