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COVID-19 VS. Influenza: What’s the difference?

Happy holidays! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the season when you may feel under the weather with a sniffly nose and a sore throat. COVID-19 and influenza can be difficult to differentiate. And while the Philippine government has eased pandemic restrictions, we’re not in the clear yet.

Here are the similarities and key differences between COVID-19 and the flu to help you better care for yourself and your family.


While the flu and COVID-19 are both viral infections, they are caused by different viruses.

  • Flu: Caused by the Influenza A or Influenza B virus

  • COVID-19: Caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus


The flu and COVID-19 share common symptoms including:

  • Sore throat

  • Runny nose

  • Fever

  • Muscle aches and headaches

  • Fatigue

  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

Key Differences

Although the symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu are very similar, there are a few differences that may help you figure out what you’re sick with.

  • Loss of sense of smell and taste: It is very common for someone who is sick with COVID-19 to lose their smell and taste; whereas this is less likely if you’re ill with the flu.

  • Time taken for your symptoms to appear after being infected: With COVID-19, you may start to experience your symptoms 2 – 5 days after being infected; whereas for the flu, your symptoms may start to emerge 1 – 4 days after infection.


COVID-19 and the flu spread in a similar fashion. Both spread through respiratory droplets from an infected person, which can be produced by sneezing, coughing, or talking. Transmission can also occur if you touch a surface that the virus is on and touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, before sanitizing your hands.

Key Differences

The main difference between the two is when an infected person is considered contagious.

  • For those with the flu, you may be able to transmit the virus about one day before your symptoms emerge; it’s observed that only individuals experiencing symptoms would be contagious.

  • On the other hand, for those with COVID-19, even asymptomatic individuals (those who do not have any symptoms) may be contagious, and you can spread the virus a few days before any symptoms show.


For most individuals, you can recover at home from both. Your doctor will prescribe you medication, and this may include antiviral drugs to manage the symptoms that you’re experiencing.

  • For those suffering from COVID-19, you should isolate at home (or in your room) for at least 72 hours, and either ensure you test negative on a self-administered rapid antigen test, or stay isolated for 7 days after testing positive before you go back to your daily activities.


Those who are at the highest risk of more severe complications are individuals who may already be immunocompromised or have existing underlying health conditions. In these cases, it’s likely that they’ll be sent to the hospital for closer care and treatment.

For serious cases, complications can include:

  • Pneumonia

  • Respiratory failure

  • Secondary infections or sepsis

  • Organ failure

  • Heart attacks

Key Differences

Other complications for COVID-19 infections also include the possibility of blood clots forming in one’s lungs, heart, legs, or brain; and the onset of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome where different body parts become inflamed.


Getting vaccinated is one of the best ways to protect yourself from sickness, whether it’s from COVID-19 or the flu. You can be assured of the safety of the available vaccines – the Department of Health ensures that all vaccines granted with Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are considered safe and effective based on the available evidence to date.

Key Differences

The recommended frequency of when you would need to get vaccinated differs.

In addition to getting vaccinated, practicing good hygiene habits can also minimize your chances of getting infected. This means sanitizing and washing your hands regularly, and avoiding touching your face unnecessarily.

This year’s holiday is when everyone gathers and gets back together again, so make sure you’re aware of how you’re feeling. If you do feel sick, stay home and consult a doctor with just a few taps on your mobile phone.

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