Differences between Covid and flu

07 June 2021 | Opinion

Windhoek • Dr Nelson Makemba

There have been many mixed emotions around the Covid vaccine and it is important to establish what a vaccine is.

A vaccination is merely a vehicle to produce immunity against a disease or a certain virus. Whether or not you have decided to get vaccinated or not, this is a personal choice that should be made and respected.

As we are in the midst of winter, many symptoms may be mistaken for that of Covid-19, so how can one really be sure which one it is? Due to symptoms being very similar, most people during the panic could confuse these symptoms and avoid getting proper diagnoses and treatment. Here are a few ways to tell them apart:

Firstly, the two have several overlapping symptoms, including fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, but the notable symptom of Covid-19 that differs from the influenza (flu) may include change in or loss of taste and smell.

It is however important to note that people have varying degrees of signs and symptoms with flu and Covid-19 ranging from no symptoms to severe symptoms.


• Runny nose
• General feeling of being unwell
• Difficulty breathing
• Potential loss of smell and taste


• Onset is sudden
• Exhaustion
• Loss of appetite
• Symptoms are severe

The differences between flu and Covid-19 is that the latter may include a range of other signs, including loss or change in taste and smell, skin reactions and difficulty breathing. Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after infection.

Both respiratory illnesses are caused by different viruses, with flu being caused by influenza viruses, while Covid-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus called (SARS-CoV-2). Covid-19 spreads more easily than flu and seems to cause more serious illnesses in most people, while the flu can cause mild to severe illnesses. It can take quite some time before people show symptoms and they can be contagious for longer. Typically, a person develops symptoms anywhere from 1-14 days with flu infection.

Covid-19 takes five days after being infected for one to develop the symptoms, which can appear as early as 2 days after infection or as late as 14 days after infection, and the time range can vary.

To prevent and protect one from Covid-19 and flu, you should wash your hands regularly with soap and water or use 70% alcohol based sanitizers. Avoid face touch and maintain at least 1m distance between you and people coughing or sneezing. Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs, stay home if you feel unwell and practice other good health habits and get vaccinated regularly.

Although Covid-19 and flu have similar symptoms, be vigilant and take care of yourself.

And in conclusion, it is your choice to be vaccinated which should be personal and respected.

*Dr. Nelson Makemba (MBChB-UKZN) is a general practitioner at Nesha Medical Practice.

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