The deadly Covid-19 pandemic has fueled heightened concerns about the prevailing virus and the flu, particularly as both share similar symptoms.
But, Consultant Physician of Infectious Diseases at the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), Dr. Nikkiah Forbes said there are several factors that set Covid-19 apart from the flu.
Dr. Forbes said she understands making a distinction between covid-19 and the flu can be challenging due to overlapping symptoms, and that alone makes it nearly impossible to tell the difference solely in terms of symptoms; but a test can be done to verify if an individual has contracted the flu or covid-19.
“Most people will do fairly okay if you have an intact immune system – about 80 percent of people will have mild to moderate symptoms meaning you don’t necessarily need to be in hospital. You can take symptomatic relief. If you think you may have a respiratory illness like Covid -19, you should know when you should be concerned and when you need to need to seek medical attention,” she said.
“If you’re feeling significantly worse, if you’re having high fevers that more than 100.4 degrees consistently that are not going away; lightheadedness, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath. If you start vomiting and you can’t get that to stop or excessive abdominal pain and diarrhea then you may need to get medical attention.”
The health expert reminded that Covid-19 is more contagious and deadly than influenza.
“The truth of the matter is that there will be some people who do not do well with Covid-19. Twenty percent of people will have severe disease and five percent of people will be seriously ill. You cannot predict who that is going to happen to or who it won’t happen to. There are perfectly healthy people who are well. There are young athletes in their teens and twenties that got Covid-19 and died. There are children that have died from Covid-19,” she said.
“You don’t know yet the long-term consequences. We’ve only been dealing with it for about a year and so, there is need for caution….This virus is not the flu at all. When we think of the mortality, it’s far higher for people who have covid-19. We can see that over 1.3 million people have already died from Covid-19 worldwide. That’s a whole lot of people and flu just does not do that.”
Healthcare professionals are pushing for people to take the flu shot. Studies have been conducted over the past year on effects of Covid-19 and how it thrives in the human body; and unfortunately, some findings show it is possible for people to have both Covid-19 and the flu at the same time.
“There are case reports of people who were co-infected with both viruses.
“Some of the good news is both can be prevented using the same public health guidelines, as a matter of fact, notably, there are places in the southern hemisphere you know flu season is different in different countries worldwide.
“There are countries that actually did not have flu season this year because of the strict following of the public health guidance, the flu was not transmitted that would be something that I’d like to see here, that would be great” Dr. Forbes says.
On the other hand, for those who do get sick during the season, Dr. Forbes suggests taking fever reducers and pain killers, sore throat drops, antihistamines to clear up the stuffy nose and cough.
She also advises that those who are sick take fluids and a lot of rest. Should conditions worsen, it is recommended individuals contact their healthcare providers for additional assistance.