How to Tell If You Have the Flu, Coronavirus, or Something Else
The first sign of a scratchy throat is scientifically known to be accompanied by an “uh-oh” sensation, followed by the ironic hope that it’s “just a cold,” because otherwise it could be the onset of a disabling flu, the looming coronavirus, or some other infectious disease affecting the upper airways. “Because colds and flu share many symptoms, it can […]

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Hussein Hallak

How to Tell If You Have the Flu, Coronavirus, or Something Else

The first sign of a scratchy throat is scientifically known to be accompanied by an “uh-oh” sensation, followed by the ironic hope that it’s “just a cold,” because otherwise it could be the onset of a disabling flu, the looming coronavirus, or some other infectious disease affecting the upper airways.

“Because colds and flu share many symptoms, it can be difficult (or even impossible) to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But in fact, the CDC’s own lists of symptoms for the two diseases draw notable distinctions in typical cases.

Symptoms of the new coronavirus, Covid-19, can indeed be difficult to distinguish from flu symptoms, but in recent weeks, infectious-disease experts have gotten a clearer picture of telltale signs, particularly fever early on, and which symptoms are rare in most cases but may show up when it becomes most serious.

There are distinct differences in the most likely symptoms of various viral infections and how fast they come on.

So, how do you know whether to call a doctor immediately or just settle in with a good book and some chicken soup?

There are distinct differences in themost likely symptoms of various virus infections and how fast they come on. This chart — and the deeper explanations below on four viruses getting a lot of attention these days — can’t replace a doctor’s diagnosis, but they may help you contemplate what you’re in for. If you have questions or concerns, consult a health care professional, and don’t let an unknown disease fester.

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