How coronavirus compares to the cold and flu

The World Health Organisation this week declared the deadly outbreak of coronavirus a pandemic, and it’s important you’re aware of the difference between the virus and the flu.

Especially after an Italian woman shared a warning about the 'big mistake' people kept making - thinking ‘It’s just flu’ - which has helped contribute to the rapid spread of the disease.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the most common symptoms of the coronavirus are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. However, some patients will experience aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea.

“These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually,” WHO says. “Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell.”

The chart below shows the similarities and differences between the symptoms of common colds, the flu and the coronavirus.

Coronavirus symptoms compared to cold and flu
Coronavirus symptoms compared to cold and flu. Photo: Yahoo

The flu and coronavirus can cause fever and cough. Unlike Covid-19, however, colds and flu do not make patients short of breath.

Fatigue is a common symptom for flu and the coronavirus, but not colds.

The coronavirus can spread by sneezing, but it’s not generally considered a symptom.

Sneezing often occurs with colds, but not flu.

The coronavirus sometimes causes aches and pains, and sometimes a runny or stuffed nose, as well as a sore throat – all symptoms that are more common with colds and flu.

Diarrhoea does not occur with colds, but can sometimes come about with flu although it’s rare for the coronavirus.

Headaches are the most common with the flu, but are less so for Covid-19.

In a now-viral tweet, one woman in northern Italy warned the country had made a “big mistake” in the lead-up to the outbreak in the European epicentre which has sent its death toll soaring beyond 600.

“Please, please guys. Here in northern Italy we made one big mistake. Everybody kept saying: ‘It’s just flu’ and now our intensive care units are collapsing,” 23-year-old Bianca, from Lombardy, tweeted.

“Everybody kept going outside like nothing happened and now our grandparents and parents are dying.

“Coronavirus is not flu.”

How does the coronavirus spread?

COVID-19, coronavirus, is spread person-to-person and by touching objects which have been contaminated by an infected person, according to the WHO.

“The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales,” WHO says.

“These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

“People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets.”

coronavirus,3d render
COVID-19, coronavirus, is spread person-to-person and by touching objects which have been contaminated. Photo: Getty

Do not underestimate coronavirus, Australian expert warns

As the virus continues to spread in Australia, Professor Ian Mackay, virologist and associate professor at the University of Queensland, has warned the virus must not be underestimated.

“It’s definitely worse than the flu and the worst case scenario (it’s) not that far off the Spanish flu,” he told Yahoo News Australia previously.

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia again later, he said many people he comes across daily refer to coronavirus as “just another flu” without seeing it as a “big risk”.

“It’s hard to stress how bad this could be if we don’t take it seriously.”

With reporting by Alexandra Thompson.

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