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Coronavirus - What you need to know

5 reasons why COVID-19 is very different from the flu

Dr. Kristopher M. McDonough of Midwest Respiratory in Joliet, recently discussed some of the main differences between the two viruses.
Dr. Kristopher M. McDonough of Midwest Respiratory in Joliet, recently discussed some of the main differences between the two viruses.

As a public service, Shaw Media will provide open access to information related to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) emergency. Sign up for the newsletter here

As Illinois moves into Phase 3 on Friday, misinformation about the virus that causes COVID-19 continues to spread on social media.

A recent story in The Herald-News shared public health providers' frustration about the misinformation and provided suggestions for sources of accurate information about the pandemic.

Common misinformation includes claims that COVID-19 is no worse than the flu and that only the elderly and people with other health care issues get really sick.

But as experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Dermatology have said in recent Herald-News stories, people of all ages have experienced serious symptoms from the virus.

Influenza and COVID-19 do have some similarities. The World Health Organization said both are respiratory illness that spread through "contact, droplets and fomites."

Fomites are objects, such as utensils, that have the potential to transmit an infection once the surface has been contaminated.

With both viruses, social distancing and frequent handwashing can help prevent its transmission.

Dr. Kristopher M. McDonough of Midwest Respiratory in Joliet and New Lenox recently discussed some of the main differences between the two viruses.

Here's a comparison, with additional information from the Centers for Disease Control.

Development of symptoms after exposure:

Influenza: “With the flu, you feel OK Monday, you get sick Tuesday. By Thursday, you’re really sick." (McDonough). People are most contagious three to four days after symptoms begin (CDC).

COVID-19: "It has an incubation period that is very long, up to 14 days." (McDonough)


Influenza: Fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body and muscle aches, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. (CDC)

COVID-19: “We think as many of a third of the people are completely asymptomatic all the way to this very life-threatening shortness of breath and respiratory failure that requires a breathing tube and mechanical ventilator and all the associated complications with that.” (McDonough)

Progression of symptoms:

Influenza: “Many influenza patients will stay sick three or four days and then quickly turn around and start getting better…if you’re going to have severe complications with flu, it’s going to be almost right away.” (McDonough)

COVID-19: “This disease keeps people sick a really long time. It’s not uncommon to see people 14 or 21 days after they reach peak for disease severity. We’re now looking at a five-week course of illness.” (McDonough)


Influenza: Supportive care, antiviral medication (McDonough)

COVID-19: Supportive care, mechanical ventilation, Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP), high flow nasal cannula, convalescent plasma therapy, proning (having patients lie face down in bed), blood thinner to treat clotting, remdesivir (anti-viral) and actemra (tocilizumab) to treat cytokine storm.


Influenza: "Typically 10 to 14 days" (McDonough).

COVID-19: “Really variable and often not related to severity of the disease.” (McDonough)

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