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2020-2021 Influenza (Flu) Season

Influenza activity will return in the fall and peak mid-winter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all people aged 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine. Getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever during the 2020-2021 season to protect yourself and the people around you from flu and can also help support healthcare systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CDC also recommends that we "Take 3" actions to fight the flu:

  1. Take time to get a flu vaccine - The CDC urges you to get a flu vaccine. Vaccination is the single most important step you can take to protect yourself and others against infection.  
  2. Take every day preventative actions to stop the spread of germs - Cover your cough; practice good hand hygiene using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, avoid close contact with sick people, and if you get sick, limit your contact with others.
  3. Take the flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them - It will reduce the length of illness and reduce the risk of transmitting it to others.

For more about this season's flu virus and guidance for treatment and prevention, go to the CDC Influenza website for the latest information.

What is the Difference between Flu and COVID-19?

Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2), and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, but there are some key differences between the two.

Similarities:

Both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, although this is more common in children than adults

Differences:

Flu

Flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness, including common signs and symptoms listed above.

Flu Symptoms

COVID-19

Other signs and symptoms of COVID-19, different from flu, may include change in or loss of taste or smell.

COVID-19 Symptoms

Flu Complications

Most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu, and some of these can be severe.

Sinus and ear infections are examples of moderate complications from flu, while pneumonia is a serious flu complication that can result from either influenza virus infection alone or from co-infection of flu virus and bacteria. Other possible serious complications triggered by flu can include inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle (myositis, rhabdomyolysis) tissues, and multi-organ failure (for example, respiratory and kidney failure). Flu also can make chronic medical problems worse.