If you feel the pluck of a sore throat and a bit of a sniffle, there’s no reason to panic. Flu and coronavirus may have similar symptoms, but they’re actually quite different.
“It’s a lung disease, not a stuffy nose disease,” Donald G. McNeil, Jr., an infectious-disease reporter for the New York Times, said in the paper’s daily coronavirus briefing. “Ninety percent of people get a fever, 80% get a dry cough, and then it drops down to 30% get shortness of breath and malaise.”
“One important distinction is that while the flu typically does not cause shortness of breath unless it has progressed to pneumonia, shortness of breath is a common symptom of coronavirus,” Ramzi Yacoub, chief pharmacy officer at SingleCare, tells Bustle. If you have the standard flu symptoms — fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, and sore throat — but don’t feel unable to breathe, it’s probable that you’re dealing with the common influenza virus.
It is possible, Dr. Mordel says, that most people with coronavirus have pretty mild symptoms and throw off the illness as they would a common cold. If you’re concerned about your risk, have traveled to or had contact with somebody traveling from a high-risk country in the past 14 days, it’s a good idea to call your medical provider to assess your risk as an individual. When in doubt, stay home from work and minimize your contact with others.