The flu vs. COVID-19: The similarities and differences


Jade Poole from I Write Words

The flu vs. COVID

As we continue to move into the colder winter months and seasonal flu takes over, how do we know whether we’ve come down with the simple flu or contracted the novel COVID-19? You read our blog.

On the 11th of March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Not only did this spark serious panic but left many of us with a few questions. With the ever-increasing number of COVID-19 cases and statistics blowing up both our TVs and phones, a level of mild hysteria is expected. Especially now that we can’t even cough without assuming that we’ve contracted COVID-19. So how do we know when our bodies are just reacting to a seasonal change or whether we should be contacting the COVID-19 hotline?

The bottom line: a quick answer

Body aches, fevers, coughs and chills. These are all common symptoms for seasonal allergies, the flu and even the Coronavirus. So, this begs the question: is the Coronavirus the same as the flu? To cut it short (for those of you here for the quick answer): There are differences between the two.

What do the flu and COVID-19 have in common?

Before we get into the differences between the flu and COVID-19, we thought we’d look at their similarities. You know, to see why everyone thinks they’re basically the same thing. Which again, they aren’t.

Here are a few things they have in common:

1.  They are both respiratory infections

For those of you that are majoring in biology or medicine, respiratory infections mean that a specific disease infects the parts of your body that help you breathe. Mostly your lungs. Both the flu and COVID-19 affect these areas. The direct symptoms of these include dry coughs and an inability to breathe.

2. The flu and COVID-19 are viruses

We know that whenever we come down with a serious illness the first thing to pop into our heads are antibiotics. Now while antibiotics are effective in their own way, they won’t work with either the flu or COVID-19. Antibiotics help treat bacteria, not viruses.

3.   Both are transmitted via droplets

Listen, when we say that you should be covering your mouth when you cough, we really mean it. If someone with either the flu or COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or spits when they talk, you’re likely to get it. Yes, it’s as simple and as dangerous as that!

4.   Handwashing is a great preventative measure

Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands. We truly can’t say it enough. I mean, we could, but you get the point. Using disinfecting soaps with water for at least 20 seconds will help kill germs. Not near water? Make use of alcohol-based sanitisers. These basic sanitary practices (that you actually should have been following anyway) will help curb the spread of viruses.

5.  Those with lower immunity are at a higher risk when it comes to the flu and COVID-19

Both the flu and COVID-19 are particularly dangerous when it comes to the elderly or those with low immune systems. Now, that doesn’t mean that you are immune to these viruses if you’re young! It just means that your immune system has a little more strength to try and fight.

Key differences between the flu and COVID-19


Flu: All types of the flu (yes, there is more than one strain) are caused by the influenza virus. The virus then mutates, causing a number of flu strains to spread.

COVID-19: This is caused by a particular virus called SARS-CoV-2.2. It forms part of a larger family of Coronaviruses which have a variety of virus-related names and strains.

Incubation period

Flu: Most seasonal flu comes out of the blue. On average, the time between catching the virus and your body starting to show symptoms is between 1 and 4 days.

COVID-19: On average, medical practitioners have stated that individuals that had contracted COVID-19 started showing symptoms 1 to 16 days after initial exposure.



·         Sore throats

·         Coughs

·         Headaches

·         Muscles aches


·         Dry coughs

·         Shortness of breath

·         Fever

·         Fatigue

*Little disclaimer: Obviously, symptoms vary from person to person, so keep that in mind!


Flu: The mortality (death) rate for the flu is rather low. In fact, it averages at about 0.1%. Basically, it is incredibly rare for someone to die from the flu.

COVID-19: The mortality rate for the Coronavirus is a lot higher than the rate for the flu. The mortality rate for COVID-19 averages at about 3-4%.


Flu: As you probably already know, there are quite a few cures and preventions for the flu. The most common being the flu vaccine that reduces the severity of the flu.

COVID-19: There is currently no cure, vaccine, or antiviral medications for the Coronavirus. On the bright side, there are many clinical trials that are underway!

Who is most at risk of contracting either one of these viruses?

·         Young children

·         Elderly persons

·         Pregnant women

·         People with compromised immune systems

·         Individuals with chronic medical conditions, for example, asthma

·         People that are ignoring social distancing rules, and running around not staying at home

The importance of health insurance

Regardless of whether you have the flu or COVID-19, make sure that your health remains a priority. This starts with taking out Oneplan’s comprehensive health insurance plans. Not only will we be your first line of defence but cover preventative care, necessary doctors’ visits and prescribed medication. There really isn’t anything we won’t do to keep you safe and healthy and our health plans are proof of this!

Look, as knowledgeable as we are on this pandemic (we have to be as insurers) we aren’t medical workers. If you think that you have contracted COVID-19 make sure to call the official hotline where the relevant persons can assist you. Remember, it is in keeping ourselves safe, that we protect others!


Yours in affordable health insurance,


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