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COVID-19 vs. The Flu: How to spot symptoms and get tested?

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RT-PCR COVID-19 test

COVID -19 is a highly contagious respiratory disease. Being a viral disease, its symptoms are pretty similar to other viral infections like the flu, which can confuse people. Rapid COVID-19 testing comes in handy during such times.

Since the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease possesses a high capability of mutation, testing for COVID-19 becomes a sensitive task at hand. The patients can be symptomatic or may remain asymptomatic for the most part during the disease course. Thus, people must be aware and have proper knowledge about this disease to respond to sensitive cases effectively.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The symptoms of COVID-19 can come to light within 2 to 14 days after getting exposed to the coronavirus. As COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease, its rate of spread is much higher than other contagious diseases like influenza (flu), diphtheria, etc.

The most common symptoms that might show up if a person is affected by coronavirus include:

Fever with recurring chills, sore throat, dry cough, loss of taste or smell, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, muscle or body aches, fatigue, headache, congestion or runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, etc.

How are COVID 19 symptoms different from Flu?

Though many symptoms are common for both COVID-19 and flu, these are very different from one another. The influenza virus or flu virus causes flu, and the symptoms of this disease include fever, sore throat, runny and stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue

If a person is affected by the coronavirus, it can take 2 to 14 days to show symptoms. In contrast, a person affected by the flu virus can experience symptoms from 1 to 4 days after infection and remain contagious for about seven days in severe cases. 

How are people tested for COVID-19?

COVID-19 tests include rapid COVID-19 tests and laboratory tests. Laboratory tests are usually RT-PCR tests where  RT-PCR stands for Reverse transcription-polymerase Chain Reaction. RT-PCR test has a very high accuracy rate for diagnosing the infectious COVID-19 virus. On the contrary, rapid COVID-19 tests are antigen tests and are less reliable for people who don’t show symptoms.

A swab from the throat or nose is collected for RT-PCR tests, and the swab is tested for the virus. For Rapid COVID-19 tests, the sample is usually a nasal swab. RT-PCR tests results take 2-3 days to be out, whereas rapid tests results are out in 15-30 minutes. However, some labs now provide RT-PCR COVID-19 test results within a few hours.

How are people tested for flu?

For flu, the test available is Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Test (RIDT) which involves immunoassays and rapid molecular assays. Other tests are rapid antigen testing, serologic testing, etc. People showing flu symptoms are easy to diagnose compared to COVID-19 patients as the latter might be symptomatic and asymptomatic.

Post Recovery Symptoms – COVID vs. Flu.

A person suffering from COVID-19 takes more time to recover than a flu patient. Both COVID-19 and flu sometimes cause post-recovery complications such as acute respiratory distress syndrome, secondary infections, etc. But unlike flu, COVID-19 can cause some major complications like – blood clots in veins and arteries of lungs, heart, brain, etc., and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children and adults. Also, the post COVID weakness lasts much longer than post-flu fatigue.

CDC Guidance on Influenza Immunization During COVID-19

The CDC provides guidelines on routine and influenza immunization services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Continuing immunization services even amidst the pandemic protects individuals from vaccine-preventable diseases while reducing the incidence of respiratory illnesses in already distressed times. Visit the CDC website to know more about vaccine planning during COVID-19.


Due to many similar symptoms, it can sometimes be tricky to tell the difference between COVID-19 and flu. Hence, it is more reliable to get tested at the earliest if such confusion arises. For better clarity, one can go for rapid COVID-19 tests and later for RT-PCR COVID tests. Affordable Rapid Testing is a convenient and reliable place that provides COVID-19 testing facilities around Phoenix, Arizona.

Our locations where you can avail of RT-PCR COVID-19 test and rapid COVID-19 test:

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