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What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the disease caused by a new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. WHO first learned of this new virus on 31 December 2019, following a report of a cluster of cases of 'viral pneumonia' in Wuhan, People's Republic of China.

What is the difference between Influenza (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.

COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people. It can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer. More information about differences between flu and COVID-19 is available in the different sections below.

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.

While more is learned every day about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it, there is still a lot that is unknown . This page compares COVID-19 and flu, given the best available information to date.


Flu Symptoms

Seasonal influenza comes on suddenly and typically causes several symptoms:

  • Fever or chills (not everyone with the flu will experience this)

  • Cough

  • Sore throat

  • Runny or stuffy nose

  • Muscle or body aches

  • Headaches

  • Fatigue

  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Symptoms

COVID-19 symptoms may appear one to 14 days after initial exposure. They most commonly include:

  • Fever

  • Dry cough

  • Fatigue

  • Shortness of breath

Some patients experience additional symptoms:

  • Sore throat

  • Runny or stuffy nose

  • Body aches

  • Diarrhea

Other symptoms that are less common and may affect some patients include:

  • Loss of taste or smell

  • Nasal congestion

  • Conjunctivitis (also known as red eyes)

  • Sore throat

  • Headache

  • Muscle or joint pain

  • Different types of skin rash

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Chills or dizziness

Symptoms of severe COVID-19 disease include:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Loss of appetite

  • Confusion

  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest

  • High temperature (above 38 C)

Other less common symptoms are:

  • Irritability

  • Confusion

  • Reduced consciousness (sometimes associated with seizures)

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Sleep disorders

More severe and rare neurological complications such as strokes, brain inflammation, delirium and nerve damage.

People of all ages who experience fever and/or cough associated with difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, or loss of speech or movement should seek medical care immediately. If possible, call your health care provider, hotline or health facility first, so you can be directed to the right clinic.

What happens to people who get COVID-19?

Among those who develop symptoms, most (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing hospital treatment. About 15% become seriously ill and require oxygen and 5% become critically ill and need intensive care.

Complications leading to death may include respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), sepsis and septic shock, thromboembolism, and/or multiorgan failure, including injury of the heart, liver or kidneys.

In rare situations, children can develop a severe inflammatory syndrome a few weeks after infection.

Who is most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19?

People aged 60 years and over, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart and lung problems, diabetes, obesity or cancer, are at higher risk of developing serious illness.

However, anyone can get sick with COVID-19 and become seriously ill or die at any age.




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