Some people with flu think they have COVID-19

A sick woman
A sick woman (Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio)

There are various strains of influenza (flu) with COVID-19 like symptoms that are active in the atmosphere, which leave some people misdiagnosing themselves. On the authority of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs.” The two main types of influenza are types A and B, which are normally transmitted by humans. “The virus is transmitted easily from person to person via droplets and small particles produced when infected people cough or sneeze. Influenza tends to spread rapidly in seasonal epidemics,” states the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

 Some common symptoms shared by both the flu and COVID-19 are “coughing, sore throat, fever or chills and congestion or runny nose,” notes the CDC. Shaloam Dixon, second year mathematics major at the University of West Indies, Mona, rarely contracts the flu and when she recently experienced flu-like symptoms of headaches, sore throat, coughing and sneezing, she was told that it was COVID-19, though not by a doctor or health professional.

In Jamaica, the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) states, “Influenza activity often begins to increase in October to November, peaks between December to March, and can last as late as May.” This increase in flu activities in these months are termed as the ‘flu season’ where flu-like symptoms are more prevalent in people. “In October, I had the flu, but I thought it was corona because I was roasting with fever and had a stuffy nose all the time,” says Daphne Taylor (not her name) who is elderly with sinusitis. “I even started to wear a mask in my house because, I did not want my family to catch it,” she added. Taylor later found out from her family doctor that she had contracted flu-like symptoms because it was the beginning of the flu season.

According to MOHW, people who are more susceptible to influenza are infants and young children, adults 65 years and older, pregnant women, and persons with chronic medical conditions or weakened immune systems. Consequently, these are the same demographic of people who are predisposed to adverse effects of the coronavirus and cause another reason for misdiagnosis. The flu, like COVID-19, can be treated with pills and vaccines.

According to the CDC, antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid, an inhaled powder, or an intravenous solution) that fight against flu in your respiratory tract and vaccination is particularly important for people who are at higher risk of serious complications of influenza. Even though the COVID-19 Pandemic is still active worldwide, people are expected to visit the doctor, rather than diagnose themselves, especially if flu-like symptoms persist, “take vitamin C supplements, drink adequate water and rest,” recommends health professionals.

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