WellSpan: COVID-19 and flu have a lot in common

COVID-19 AND flu

COVID-19 and the flu have a lot in common. Both are caused by a virus. Both can cause a fever and cough. And both can be prevented by wearing a mask, social distancing and handwashing.

But there are some key differences, according to WellSpan Health, owner of Chambersburg and Waynesboro Hospitals.

The sobering news: COVID-19 is thought to be much more deadly than the flu, with a fatality rate that could be 10 times higher than the flu. More than 285,000 people in the U.S. have died this year alone. A vaccine offers hope and will be available soon, but it will take time to distribute it.

READ: PA Department of Health: Big surge in COVID-19 cases

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COVID-19 and flu

The empowering news: The flu also can be deadly, but the vaccine is readily available and can protect you from the flu or shorten its duration and severity.

WellSpan experts say getting a flu vaccine is crucial this year, as we all work to protect our health. And the conjunction of the pandemic and with the pending flu season – what some worry may be a “twindemic” – actually may have a silver lining.

“I hope we see fewer cases of flu this year, because many of us are being very careful with social distancing, masking and handwashing. It’s in everyone’s best interest that we all continue those practices. We also should get a flu vaccine,” said Eugene Curley, M.D., a WellSpan infectious disease physician and chairman of the Clinical Practice Standards Task Force, which works to ensure WellSpan is following the safest, highest quality of care during the pandemic.

“While we all may feel a little powerless at the rise in COVID-19 cases, getting a flu vaccine is one thing you can do to protect yourself,” Curley said. “Continue to be strong, safe and vigilant.”

Here’s more about the differences, and similarities, between COVID-19 and the flu:

The cause

COVID-19: The novel 2019 coronavirus or SARS CoV2.

Flu: Different strains and types of the influenza virus, which vary from year to year.

How both spread

Droplets traveling through the air (talking, sneezing, coughing, shouting), touching a surface with viruses on it.

The symptoms

Both: Fever, cough, shortness of breath, headache, body aches, fatigue, sometimes nausea and diarrhea.

COVID-19: Loss of taste and smell. Also, some people display no symptoms.


Both: Treatment to address symptoms such as fever or breathing problems, antiviral medications to shorten the length of the illness.

COVID-19: Antivirals administered intravenously, and available only in the hospital setting.

Flu: Oral antivirals prescribed on an outpatient basis or given to hospital patients.

The death rates

COVID-19: More than 285,000 deaths in the U.S. since January 2020.

Flu: Between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths a year in the U.S. since 2010, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.


Both: Masks, handwashing, social distancing.

COVID-19: Vaccine under development.

Flu: Vaccine available now, to prevent the flu or shorten its length and severity.

Schedule your flu vaccine today. Patients who wish to receive a vaccine without going into their provider’s office can call their WellSpan Family Medicine office to schedule a parking lot visit. Flu shots also are available at WellSpan Urgent Care and WellSpan Pharmacy locations.

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