Influenza versus COVID-19

As summer is winding down and we are looking at fall, preparing for our annual flu season, what will we do now that we have…


As summer is winding down and we are looking at fall, preparing for our annual flu season, what will we do now that we have two major viruses active. I really wanted to provide some facts about influenza and COVID-19… you can do your own research of course, I will reference where I get my information and as always this post is never meant as Medical advice, simply to provide information in a world where there is a lot of conflicting information, trying to provide my readers with facts, I have a Masters degree in Public Health and studied epidemiology pretty intensively.

influenza is a virus that shows up each year, we term it flu season. Influenza have different strains every year hence why we need to get a new vaccine each year, some strains are worse than others some strains affect the young more often while others affect the elderly more while yet other strains affects all age groups.

Signs and symptoms of influenza

  • Fever
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • muscle aches
  • cough
  • congestion
  • runny nose
  • headaches

Influenza is a respiratory virus that is spread through respiratory droplets, when someone talks, coughs, sneezes, sings…

It is important to note that influenza (seasonal flu) is not the same as the stomach bug which is often also referred to as the flu

Influenza is a contagious infectious disease, and many probably are wondering why we have never had to wear masks during flu season… well that is not exactly the case. When you present to your doctor during flu season you will see signs that say if you have symptoms you will need to wear a mask, this keeps others in the waiting room or surrounding you healthy, the infectious respiratory droplets get trapped in your mask and do not end up in the air, on other people or common touched surfaces.

Why is it then that we are all being asked to wear a mask now with COVID-19 if we are “well”? there are so many cases where people are carrying the COVID-19 virus and are not presenting with symptoms so we cant tell if you are truly well or just asymptomatic…. it is best that everyone wears a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic to flatten the curve, to reduce the numbers of COVID-19 infections.

Back to Influenza for a minute for more facts before I move on to COVID-19

prevention of Influenza

  • vaccinations are the best way to prevent influenza(this causes its own set of controversy though and I will not be getting into the reasons to get vaccinated or not, that is your decision to make)
    • vaccines is the process of injecting a dead/live virus into a person, this makes the body think that it has been infected which boosts the bodies immune response to begin creating antibodies to protect the person from getting the flu or from serious complications, even with vaccines it is not 100% guarantee that you will be protected from getting the flu but if you do in fact get the flu your symptoms will not be as bad and you should recover quicker than those who do not get a vaccine.
  • cover your cough- turn away and cough into a elbow tissue or shirt to keep respiratory droplets away from those who are around you(similar to a mask)
  • wash your hands- This is the best way to help reduce the spread of the flu. Frequent and proper hand-washing
  • If you have symptoms stay away from people(quarantine at home or be in isolation…see these terms that are being used in COVID-19 are not new)

Size of Influenza virus- 0.08-.12 microns

Size of COVID-19 virus- 0.1 microns

Signs and symptoms of COVID-19

  • Fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • new loss of taste
  • new loss of smell
  • sore throat
  • congestion
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • body aches

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and is spread through respiratory droplets that contain the virus that either directly comes in contact with other people, speaking, coughing, sneezing, talking, singing in close contact with others, or the respiratory droplets land on inanimate objects and the virus will live on these objects which can then be picked up by unsuspecting people when they touch that surface and then touch their face.

COVID-19 is highly contagious(see below with the comparison between other communicable diseases) Since it is very new(Novel) we do not yet have a vaccine and are still learning about the virus, so face coverings have been encouraged and even mandated in some states/cities. Social distancing and state shutdowns have happened too all in an effort to flatten the curve to slow the spread of the virus.

When encouraging mask wearing was not working or was looked at as unacceptable we did a safe at home order and yet even then caused a lot of controversy from pretty much everyone on my social media feeds, Perhaps they just dont understand the seriousness of this virus? We began reopening and everything seemed fine until the nubmer of cases began skyrocketing to numbers never seen before in states who didnt experience those type of numbers to begin with. Healthcare systems are on the verge of breaking just too overwhelmed to handle all the sickness.

One last effort to try to slow the rate of infection is for governors to sign executive orders to wear a mask, this caused a huge negative response once again from pretty much everyone, I don’t get it, this COVID-19 virus is very serious and highly contagious and the mortality rate is so high why aren’t more people agreeing that masking is a good idea?

So we have talked about the flu since everyone wants to say that COVID-19 is not as bad as the flu or they want to at least compare the two well okay so can I so here we go

VirusSigns/SymptomsTransmissionRate of spreadIncubation Community spread rateUS cases 2019Global cases 2019Deaths
*body aches
respiratory droplets
(talking, coughing, sneezing, singing…)
1.31-4 days10-20%39-59 million
1 billion (estimated)US- 10K(estimated)
Global- 24K-64K(estimated)
*body aches
respiratory droplets
(talking, coughing, sneezing, singing…)
2.0-2.54-14 days30-40%3,254,822
US deaths- 135K to date
555K to date
information for this chart was taken from CDC, WHO, Contagion, Yale University

Transmission– How the virus is spread from person to person

Rate of spread number is known– the number of people who will contract the virus from one person

Incubation– the amount of time the virus lives prior to showing symptoms

community spread rate-this is also known as the risk. during a pandemic/ epidemic you will hear this number given to show the risk of infection it is figured by taking the total number of new cases divided by the total population

US Cases/global cases: From the above chart you can see there are more COVID cases than FLU but keep in mind that influenza is not always reportable disease like COVID-19 so those numbers are estimated.

When we know how a virus is transmitted/spread through the community we can better protect ourselves, right? So both of these infectious diseases are spread through respiratory droplets and being in close proximity to others, one (COVID-19) has a higher infectious rate. When touching common touched surfaces we need to wash our hands with soap and water, if that is not available a hand sanitizer 99% alcohol will be sufficient. Keep a nice distance from others that do not live in your household, cover your cough and immediately wash hands after you cough. If you can not maintain adequate social distancing (grocery store shopping, airports, airplanes, malls, office spaces…) wearing a mask can help to mitigate the spread by trapping respiratory droplets(no this is not 100% but any help is good enough for me) Influenza almost always presents with symptoms and therefore you know exactly who is ill and who is well, COVID-19 is presenting more often asymptotically so it is hard to tell who has it and who doesn’t, I think we should assume all have it, this is why masking is not necessary during flu season and is necessary during covid-19

Wearing a mask is not just for yourself but helps to protect others, it is thinking of others above yourself, this is not too common in today’s “its all about me society!”

I understand that many are upset about being told to wear a mask but I hope that if you are one of those people at least this post gave you a different perspective to think about. Personally I just cannot even imagine that it was me who gave COVID-19 to someone who is more vulnerable just because I feel good

See this example:

(This example is completely hypothetical meant to get you to think about it…names and situation is not based on any real life events, that I know of anyway)

Cara has a very large family that all love to gather at her grandmas house. When COVID-19 began they decided to keep grandma safe to not visit her, and grandma wouldn’t leave the house at all except to sit outside as she is 86 years old and has COPD and emphysema but is healthy otherwise. Easter came and went no one went to grandmas, Mothers day and they decided to all come one by one and talk to grandma through the window, she enjoyed that, memorial day came and went no one went to grandmas. It was getting ready to be July 4th and Cara called her 10 cousins and aunts/uncles and said “hey this COVID-19 isnt that bad right it is more like the seasonal flu, and not that we want grandma to get the flu either, I really dont think it will hurt us to have our annual cookout at grandmas.” They checked with grandma and she said “if you all think it is safe I guess you can come, I would love to see everyone!”

July 4th it was about 12:30 and Cara, her husband and 2 small children arrived at Grandmas to begin setting up by 4PM everyone was there and grandma had hugged and kissed everyone, she missed everyone so much. It was so hot they decided to eat in grandmas large home. They partied all evening and even put off some great fireworks and then all left and by midnight the damage had been done.

The next day Cara called to check on grandma and she was fine she said she had never felt better! Cara was so relieved. 4 days later grandma began feeling bad like she couldn’t get out of bed, she called her oldest daughter Tammy to come to check on her, when Tammy arrived she found her mom in her bed and she looked very unwell, she took her temperature and it was 104 degrees. Tammy decided to take her to the ER, she called the EMTs and called the family who all came and gathered as the EMTS took grandma to the hospital they had no other option than to sit at home and wait to hear something, they were not allowed to go to the hospital.

What seemed like an eternity finally the phone rang it was a Dr. who said he was a hospitalist taking care of grandma, he said unfortunately her tests have come back positive for COVID-19 and one hour after arriving at the ER she declined and was put on a ventilator and transferred to ICU.

5 days after grandma was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with COVID-19 she passed away without her family around her.

The entire family was distraught and wondered where in the world did she get COVID-19 everyone felt okay they felt fine none had a fever…. all decided to get tested and 8 of them were positive with COVID-19, 8 of them were positive and didn’t even know it, if they had only social distanced worn masks stayed away a little longer.

That story was hypothetical but in reality it is happening everyday, think about it, are you okay with being asymptomatic and passing it on to someone else, someone else who maybe wont be able to fight it off?


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