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Physician explains the difference between flu and COVID-19 symptoms

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Posted at 7:34 AM, Sep 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-08 10:14:43-04

HELENA - According to the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), influenza season generally begins in October, spikes in December, and doesn't phase out until March.

With flu season fast approaching and the COVID-19 pandemic not showing any signs of ending soon, how are we supposed to tell the difference between Covid and the flu?

“There are a lot of unknowns, we just don’t know what is going to happen,” said Saint Peters Health Medical group president Dr. Todd Wampler.

He and his colleagues have been discussing the upcoming flu season for weeks, and have identified several elements to help them navigate both viruses.

“Since both viruses are spread the same way, we assume the same things we do to help prevent Covid spread are going to help prevent flu spread,” said Wampler

Which means wearing a mask, washing hands often, and keeping a safe distance from others - those are all things everyone can do to avoid both Covid and the flu.

“The one symptom that seems to be unique to COVID is the loss of a sense of taste or smell. Now that doesn’t happen with everyone with covid, and occasionally it can happen with other viruses as well, but that tends to be one symptom that tips us off a little bit,” Wampler said.

He also added the flu can definitely be a week-long illness and it tends to be a lot worse than the common cold that only lasts a few days, but Covid symptoms seem to last a little bit longer.

He said the best way to prepare for flu season is to get a flu shot and the only way to tell for sure if you have one or the other is to get a test.