President Biden recently remarked that "the pandemic is over" and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it is dropping its universal masking guideline for healthcare workers. The move came after weeks of diminishing COVID-19 related hospitalizations.
However, the flu season has officially started and winter is coming. Both the influenza and SARS-CoV-2 are notoriously unpredictable, and there is concern that the United States is primed for a "twindemic" - a wave of influenza and a Delta SARS-CoV-2 variant striking at the same time.
The strongest indication that the flu could hit the U.S. this winter is what happened during the winter in the Southern Hemisphere, such as Australia, where flu started ramping up months earlier than normal, causing one of the worst flu seasons in recent years.
"The flu remains a serious health threat and we are already seeing influenza starting to circulate in advance of the official start of the season next week," said Medical Director for the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) Dr. Rick Hong. "The flu is contagious and has the ability to cause serious illness and even death. Despite recent decreases in COVID-19 cases, hospitals are still under strain. People should continue to take steps to prevent emergency hospital visits."
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease professor at Vanderbilt University warns: "If we have a serious influenza season, and if the omicron variants continue to cause principally mild disease, this coming winter could be a much worse flu season than COVID. The combination of the two viruses could seriously strain the health system".
How to Know if It Is Flu or COVID-19
The flu and COVID-19 and both contagious respiratory illnesses. Although the symptoms of both illnesses can look similar and they spread in similar ways, they are caused by different viruses.
Infected person can transmit the virus to other people in close contact (within 6 feet) through respiratory droplets or aerosols released through talking, sneezing or coughing. These droplets can land in the mouth or nose of someone nearby or be inhaled. They can also land on a surface. Another person can touch the surface with viruses on it and then transfer the germs to themselves by touching their mouth, nose, eyes.
People infected with COVID-19 or the flu may not realize they are sick for several days, and during that time can unknowingly spread the disease to others before they even feel sick.
The signs and symptoms of both diseases can range from no symptoms to mild or severe symptoms. COVID-19 and the flu have many signs and symptoms in common, including:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle aches
- Nausea or vomiting, but this is more common in children than in adults.
Because COVID-19 and the flu have similar symptoms, it can be hard to diagnose which condition a person has based on their symptoms alone.
Testing is the easiest way to diagnose whether a person has COVID-19, the flu or both.
There are rapid, at-home and point-of-care tests available for reliable testing.
Status COVID-19/Flu A&B rapid antigen test is an advanced test that can simultaneously detect and differentiate whether a person is infected by SARS-CoV-2, influenza A and/or influenza B using a simple nasopharyngeal swab specimen from an individual who is suspected of respiratory viral infection.