symptoms, how to tell the difference?

Difficult to differentiate influenza from coronavirus infection. These two diseases are respiratory infections that are transmitted in the same way and initially cause similar symptoms. What do they have in common? Their differences? What to do in case of suggestive signs?

The virus responsible for Covid-19 very similar to that of the flu in its first manifestations, hence the risk of confusion between the two and the worry of patients. What do they have in common? Their differences?

The virus responsible for Covid-19 has similarities to that of the flu. The two diseases are “respiratory infections like viral pneumonia“, describes Professor Arnaud Fontanet, director of the Department of Global Health at the Institut Pasteur and head of the epidemiology of emerging diseases unit. Here are their common points:

influenza-or-covid-19-symptoms “> Similar symptoms. “First, the COVID-19 virus and the influenza virus give a similar clinical picture, marked by respiratory manifestations. The symptoms are very varied: while some subjects are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, others have serious manifestations or even die.“, indicates theWorld Health Organization. Both viruses cause similar symptoms.“Runny nose, fever, cough, stiffness, fatigue, the first symptoms of Covid-19 are comparable to those of the flu” confirms Dr Pierre Parneix, medical officer of health and hospital practitioner in public health.

Similar transmission mode. The two viruses are transmitted in the same way: by close and close contact (less than 1.5 meters), by respiratory droplets (postilions, sneezes …) or through an object or a surface, previously touched by an infected person.

Incubation time. The flu has an incubation period (time between infection and the onset of symptoms) shorter than Covid-19: between 1 and 3 days for influenza compared to 3 to 5 days (sometimes up to at 14 days) for Covid-19.

Speed ​​of transmission. The coronavirus has a serial interval (speed of transmission of the virus between 2 consecutive cases on the transmission chain) of 5 to 6 days while the flu has a serial interval of 3 days. The flu therefore spreads faster than the Covid-19.

Reproduction rate. The reproduction rate of Covid-19 (number of secondary infections caused by an infected individual) is 2 times to 2.5 times higher than that of influenza.

People affected. Children are important vectors of influenza virus transmission to those around them. For Covid-19, studies indicate that children are less affected than adults and that clinical attack rates in 0-19 year olds are low.

Complications. Covid-19 has higher rates of severe forms and complications than the flu. Among the complications of a coronavirus infection: acute respiratory distress syndrome, acute renal failure or even multi-visceral failure …

coronavirus-mortalite-deces “name =” flu-or-coronavirus-mortality-death “> Mortality. To date, 30,950 people have died from Covid-19 in France. The flu, it kills each year “between 10,000 to 15,000 deaths, mainly in fragile subjects” in France, according to the Pasteur Institute.

Vaccine. Several dozen vaccines against Covid-19 are in development, but there is currently no vaccine against this disease. However, each year a flu shot is available.

Treatments. Several treatments for Covid-19 are currently in clinical trials, but no approved treatment is available. On the other hand, there are antivirals against the influenza virus.

► If you have any of the symptoms listed above, call your doctor or consult him by teleconsultation and describe your symptoms. Stay at home and only go out when necessary, always with a mask. Protect yourself with a mask at home if you live with other people. For general questions about the virus (trips, symptoms): toll free number 0.800.130.000 (free call)

► If you have difficulty breathing, call the 15 (where the 114 for people who are deaf or hard of hearing).

The flu vaccine does not protect against infection with Covid-19 in any way. Nevertheless, in this epidemic context, doctors, scientists, unions and politicians are increasingly at recommend seasonal influenza vaccination and call for wider vaccination of the population this year. And this for many reasons :

► Rule out the hypothesis of influenza in a vaccinated person if they present symptoms suggestive of Covid-19.

► Limit the number of visitors to laboratories and screening centers.

► Relieve congestion in hospitals and doctor’s offices, particularly frequented by flu patients in autumn / winter.

► Avoid contracting the two diseases, which would be very dangerous, even fatal.

► Avoid a “double wave” of Covid-19 and seasonal flu.

However, “the risk of too broad an incentive is not to have enough doses to vaccinate the most vulnerable, Carine Wolf-Thal, President of the Order of Pharmacists, quoted by The Parisian September 15. On is getting organized to vaccinate more, she continues, and we think we must increase the number of vaccinators. We can imagine a combination of PCR test and influenza vaccine performed by pharmacists biologists“. Side stocks, laboratories expect a sharp increase in vaccinations against influenza. To meet demand, Sanofi Pasteur for example increased its production by 20% (250 million dose).

Sources :

– Questions and answers: Similarities and differences between COVID-19 and influenza, World Health Organization.

– Interview with Dr Pierre Parneix, medical hygienist specializing in public health, carried out in February 2020.

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