As this year draws to a close, many are left reflecting on the events that have taken this year by storm. 

One of the most pressing and still ongoing events is the COVID-19 pandemic. Over millions reported having the virus and over 300,000 individuals have died due to it.

With all the worry and panic the virus has brought this year, many are still left with a question that’s been asked since the start of all of this: what’s the difference between COVID-19 and the common flu?

Influenza, most commonly called the flu, has been around for much longer than COVID-19, but many are treating it as if they are one-in-the-same. 

“At first, many people were uninformed about what was really up with the virus,” Sally Marty, a nurse at MetroHealth hospital in Cleveland working to treat COVID-19 patients, said.

When cases first began to appear in the US, many were unaware of the severity of the virus.

“All many people knew at first were some of the symptoms,” Savannah Boll, a senior at Ohio University studying nursing, said in a message.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, some of the major symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. These also are some of the major symptoms with the flu.

Another similarity between the flu and COVID-19 is the ability to spread it from person to person. Both are spread mainly by droplets made when people cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

“The hardest part with them being so similar is being able to tell the difference between needing to rest for a few days and needing to go to a hospital,” Marty said. “It could mean the difference between life and, unfortunately in many cases, death.”

However, both viruses do have distinguishing symptoms that do set them apart. One of the biggest indicators for COVID-19 and not the flu is a lack or difference in taste and smell. 

“When patients lose their ability to breath and taste, that’s when we start to shoot for that they may be positive for the virus,” Boll said in her message.

Another distinguishing factor is that individuals tend to feel a lot more sick when they have COVID-19 than when they have the flu.

As more and more information is discovered about the virus, how to handle it is subject to change.

“Unlike influenza, we don’t have a (widespread) vaccine for COVID-19 yet,” Marty said. “However, similar to the flu, there are preventable methods and treatment that people can do to not get the virus or spread it.”

These preventable measures include social distancing and wearing a mask out in public.

While some of these have been hard for certain individuals, both Marty and Boll insist that these are not to be taken lightly.

“So far, we have nothing else,” Boll said. “To me, wearing a mask and being away from others is far more acceptable that possibly getting sick and dying.”

Boll said she and many of her classmates in clinicals have been very educated on enforcing these rules. She also said OU is doing all it can to make sure the numbers stay low in Athens.

“I think that OU is trying its best, from what I’ve seen and heard at least,” Boll said in her message. 

Along with Boll, Marty agrees with the enforcement of these measures.

“These may be inconveniences now, but it really is what’s best for everyone’s health and safety in the long run,” Marty said.