This GBCA Safety Toolbox Talk lays out the similarities and differences between COVID-19 and influenza. Click below to download the Toolbox Talk as a handout (includes Sign-In Sheet).

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COVID-19 & Flu: Similarities and Differences

Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, testing is usually needed to confirm a diagnosis of either COVID-19 or flu. Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, but there are some key differences between the two.

For information on testing for COVID-19 or flu, or to learn how to get the flu shot, contact your medical provider.

What Are the Symptoms?

BOTH COVID-19 & FLU

  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • *Asymptomatic – People can show no symptoms when infected with either COVID-19 or flu

COVID-19

  • New change in or loss of taste or smell

 

How Long Symptoms Appear After Exposure and Infection

BOTH COVID-19 & FLU

  • 1 or more days can pass between becoming infected and experiencing illness symptoms.

COVID-19

  • COVID-19 symptoms can take longer to develop than flu symptoms
  • Typically, symptoms appear 5 days after being infected, but symptoms can appear as early as 2 days after infection or as late as 14 days after infection.

FLU

  • Typically, symptoms appear anywhere from 1 to 4 days after infection.

 

How Long Someone Can Spread the Virus

BOTH COVID-19 & FLU

  • COVID-19 and flu can be spread for at least 1 day before experiencing any symptoms.

COVID-19

  • COVID-19 can be contagious for longer than the flu.
  • It is possible for people to spread COVID-19 for about 2 days before symptoms appear and remain contagious for at least 10 days after symptoms appear.
  • It is possible to be contagious for at least 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19, even if you are asymptomatic or symptoms go away.

FLU

  • Most people are contagious for about 1 day before symptoms appear.
  • Older children and adults with flu are most contagious for the first 3-4 days of their illness, but may remain contagious for about 7 days.
  • Infants and people with weakened immune systems can be contagious for longer than 7 days.

 

How Do the Viruses Spread?

BOTH COVID-19 & FLU

  • Both COVID-19 and flu may be spread to others by people who are not yet showing symptoms, who have very mild symptoms, or who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic).
  • Both can spread from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Both are spread mainly by droplets made when people with the illness (COVID-19 or flu) cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, or stay in the air and possibly be inhaled by people nearby.
  • It may be possible to get infected with COVID-19 or flu by physical human contact (e.g. shaking hands) or by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your own mouth, nose, or eyes.

COVID-19

  • COVID-19 is more contagious among certain populations and age groups than flu.
  • COVID-19 has more superspreading events than flu. This means that COVID-19 can quickly and easily spread to a lot of people and result in continuous spreading among people as time progresses.

 

Is There A Vaccine?

COVID-19

  • Currently, there is no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19.

FLU

  • Each year, the FDA approves and licenses influenza vaccines to protect against the 3 or 4 flu viruses that scientists anticipate will most likely circulate the next year.
  • Getting the flu shot is recommended to prevent flu, or to reduce the severity of symptoms of any flu virus not covered in the flu shot.

 

For more information, visit the CDC’s website:

LEARN MORE

 

For information about whether to go in to work, how long to isolate or quarantine, or when it’s okay to return to work, speak with your employer. Employers can refer to GBCA’s COVID-19 Safety Resources for guidance (in the GBCA COVID-19 Updates Page):

  • Suggested Response Protocols Flow Chart for COVID-19 Exposures
  • Recommended Response Protocols
  • Recommended Job Site Protocols
VISIT GBCA’S COVID-19 SAFETY RESOURCES

 

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