Winter is traditionally a time with colds and flu are rife. And with a further 3,497 cases of coronavirus being announced in the UK, there are fears the virus too will surge when the seasons change, sparking a second wave. Some experts have suggested telling the difference between flu and coronavirus is essential for treatment.
So how do the two viruses differ?
Both illnesses share very similar symptoms. The NHS says flu symptoms can common very quickly and can include a sudden fever, an aching body, feeling tired or exhausted, a dry cough, a sore throat and a headache.
Difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, diarrhoea or tummy pain and feeling sick and being sick are also symptoms linked to flu.
But these symptoms have also been seen in coronavirus patients.
One way coronavirus could be distinguished is through loss of taste and smell, according to Arnold Monto, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and Carl Philpott, a University of East Anglia ear, nose and throat expert.
To date, COVID-19 has just one common telltale sign, Monto told The Washington Post – distinctive loss of taste and smell.
People with flu or a bad cold and nasal congestion may also lose their sense of smell.
But according to Philpott, the difference with COVID-19 is the loss is sudden and more profound, affecting the ability to distinguish between sweet and bitter, and may happen without a stuffy nose.
Philpott came to this. Conclusion following a small study which gave smell and taste tests to 30 people – 10 had been diagnosed with COVID-19, 10 had bad colds and 10 served as a healthy control group.
Philpott said the findings offer a way to discriminate between COVID-19 and flu or a cold when conventional tests aren’t available.
He added people who suspect they have COVID-19 might screen themselves at home by sniffing products such as coffee or oranges.
Another symptom that may help distinguish coronavirus from flu is dyspnea, a term for difficulty breathing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists this as one of only two symptoms not commonly shared with flu (the other is loss of taste and smell).
Currently the NHS advice is for anyone experiencing a high temperature, a new continued cough or a loss or change to sense of smell or taste is to get a coronavirus test.
The test needs to be done in the first five days of having symptoms.
The health body advises: “Book a visit to a test site to have the test today. Or order a home test kit if you cannot get to a test site.
“On days one to four of your symptoms, you can get tested at a site or at home. If you’re ordering a home test kit on day 4, do it by 3pm.
“On day five, you need to go to a test site. It’s too late to order a home test kit.”
If you are unable to get a test in the first five days of having symptoms, you and anyone you live with must stay at home and self-isolate.
This includes anyone in your support bubble.
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