Is it the flu, a cold or the new coronavirus? Patients and doctors alike are parsing signs of illness to figure out who needs what tests or care and how worried they should be.
“You have three different major viruses floating around at the same time,” causing somewhat similar symptoms but different levels of concern, said Dr. Gary LeRoy, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is a flu-like illness that has killed a small fraction of the number of people that the flu kills every year.
Through the first four months of the outbreak, coronavirus has killed about 4,300 people.
Flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 every year around the world, according to the World Health Organization.
But to public health experts, the huge number of flu deaths is exactly why extraordinary steps should be taken to try to prevent the new coronavirus from spreading widely.
The flu’s annual return can’t be stopped because it’s already so embedded in the population.
There is still a chance COVID-19 cases can be limited or spread slowed while treatments are developed.
Researchers are still trying to understand just how deadly the coronavirus is. The mortality rate from infection with the virus isn’t known yet because the cases caught in an early part of an outbreak are often the most severe, people with mild or no symptoms aren’t being tested, and sometimes overwhelmed hospitals struggle to care for the sickest patients.
Various reports have estimated the fatality rate from less than 1% to as high as 4% among cases diagnosed so far, depending on location.
Most people infected by the new coronavirus develop mild or moderate symptoms and recover after about two weeks.
Doctors can test for the flu and get results within a day, but coronavirus testing is still limited by availability in the United States.
Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization.
A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.
To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.
There’s one big difference between flu and coronavirus, a vaccine exists to help prevent the flu and it’s not too late to get it. It won’t protect you from catching the coronavirus, but may put you in a better position to fight it....