Similarities: COVID-19 and the flu

2 mins read


Both illnesses can cause fever, cough, body aches, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea (especially in children). Learn more about COVID-19 symptoms.

Both can result in pneumonia.

Both flu and COVID-19 can be mild or severe, or even fatal in rare cases.

How It Spreads

Both the flu and COVID-19 spread in similar ways. Droplets or smaller virus particles from a sick person can transmit the virus to other people nearby. The smallest particles may linger in the air, and another person can inhale them and become infected.

Or, people can touch a surface with viruses on it, and then transfer the germs to themselves by touching their face. 

People infected with the coronavirus or the flu may not realize they are sick for several days, and during that time can unknowingly spread the disease to others before they even feel sick.


Neither the flu nor COVID-19 is treatable with antibiotics, which only work on bacterial infections.

Both are treated by addressing symptoms, such as reducing fever. Severe cases may require hospitalization and very ill patients may need a ventilator — a machine that helps them breathe.

Antiviral medications may shorten the duration of both illnesses.


Both can be prevented by mask-wearing, frequent and thorough hand washing, coughing into the crook of your elbow, staying home when sick and limiting contact with people who are infected. Physical distancing limits the spread of COVID-19 in communities.

Reviewed by Lisa Lockerd Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H.

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