Whatís the Difference Between Coronavirus, COVID-19 and the
With COVID-19 spreading around the world and rates of
infections and deaths continuing to climb, many have been
wondering what the difference is between Coronavirus,
COVID-19 and the flu (influenza).
There are clear similarities: they are all respiratory
viruses whose primary symptoms include a fever and a cough.
However, there are important differences as well.
Hereís what you need to know about the difference between
Coronavirus, COVID-19 and the flu.
1. COVID-19 is one strain of the coronavirus.
Researchers have identified seven strains of the coronavirus
that can infect humans. Four of them are very common and
tend to cause mild symptoms, including a runny nose, sore
throat, headache, cough and low grade fever. These four
strains are so widespread that most people will have been
infected by one of them at least once in their lifetime,
though they likely wonít know it since the symptoms are
indistinguishable from symptoms of other viruses that cause
the common cold.
Although those four strains of the coronavirus cause mild
respiratory infections, there are three strains of the virus
that cause more virulent infections.
In 2003, an outbreak of the coronavirus strain SARS-CoV
caused more than 8000 infections worldwide, and led to 774
deaths from SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).
In 2012, another virulent strain of coronavirus was
identified. The outbreak of this virus, named MERS-CoV,
began in Saudi Arabia and caused hundreds of deaths from
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
SARS-CoV2 is the third terrible variety of coronavirus that
causes the more commonly known COVID-19, which stands for
Coronavirus Disease 2019. It causes severe symptoms and
significant mortality, similar to the SARS and MERS
2. Thereís a vaccine for influenza, but not for COVID-19 or
Every year, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) tracks
strains of influenza that are traveling around the globe,
and tries to predict which four strains, out of more than
100 possible strains, are most likely to hit the U.S. during
our cold and flu season. They use that information to
formulate that yearís flu shot. This is why you need a flu
shot every year -- because each year, the strains included
in the flu shot vary.
Unfortunately, there isnít a vaccine for COVID-19 or any of
the other coronaviruses yet. Researchers are currently
working on a COVID-19 vaccine, but it could take up to 18
months for it to become available.
While the flu shot doesnít protect against coronaviruses,
itís still important to get the flu shot because it can
protect you from the flu, which can mimic symptoms of
COVID-19 and make the diagnosis less clear.
Mortality rates are significantly higher in COVID-19 than
From the data we have so far, COVID-19 has a higher
mortality rate (i.e., itís more deadly) than influenza. With
influenza, an average of 0.1% of patients who contract the
infection will die from it.
Based on data collected from more than 100 countries
affected by the current pandemic, the World Health
Organization (WHO) estimates that the average COVID-19
mortality rate is around 3%, which means itís 30 times more
lethal than the flu.
3. Thereís no known treatment for COVID-19.
One of the major differences between COVID-19 and influenza
is that there is a medication that can treat influenza, but
there hasnít been a proven COVID-19 treatment yet.
Patients who have influenza can be treated with an antiviral
medication that resolves the infection quicker and reduces
secondary complications like pneumonia. The most
commonly-prescribed antiviral medications for the flu are
called Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Xofluza (baloxavir).
Clinical trials are currently underway to find a treatment
or cure for COVID-19. But until a treatment and/or cure is
established, the focus is on symptom support, including pain
and fever control, I.V. hydration and supplemental oxygen.
In severe cases, patients are intubated and placed on a
ventilator to assist with their breathing.
4. Weíre still learning how COVID-19 is transmitted.
Influenza is primarily a respiratory infection thatís
transmitted via respiratory droplets. When an infected
person coughs or sneezes, aerosolized droplets are released
into the air, and can infect the respiratory tract of anyone
nearby who inhales the virus-contaminated droplets.
Coronaviruses are also commonly transmitted via respiratory
droplets that linger in the air and quickly settle after an
infected patient coughs or sneezes. However, there is data
to suggest that it could be transmitted in other ways,
including talking, singing or laughing. Due to this type of
transmission, the CDC is recommending staying six feet away
from other people, as well as avoiding leaving the house
except for essential needs and wearing a homemade mask when
do you enter public spaces. It can also be transmitted when
a person touches an infected surface, and then touches their
face. This is why frequently sanitizing surfaces and not
touching your face, especially in public spaces, is so
Research is also underway to determine if the COVID-19 virus
can be spread via fecal-oral transmission, by contact with
animals or by other means.