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How to tell if you have the flu or COVID-19

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Posted at 4:05 PM, Oct 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-30 19:05:06-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The flu season is a challenge that Kern County communities are used to dealing with every year. But 2020’s flu season is being compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Both illnesses have similar symptoms, so how can you tell which one you might have if you feel ill?

Sometimes it hard to know what your symptoms mean, especially considering that both the flu and COVID are contagious respiratory illnesses, according to the CDC. Kern Public Health says there are a few differences between the two though.

“One thing that the CDC has noted is that a change in taste or smell would be unique to COVID-19," said Michelle Corson, Public Relations Officer with Public Health. She says as far as symptoms go, that’s pretty much the only differing factor separating COVID from influenza.

“Fever, cough, body aches, these are all things that are similar," she said.

And so are symptoms like shortness of breath, runny or stuffy nose, and a headache, according to the CDC. Corson says this year it’s particularly important that if you show signs of illness, you talk to your doctor because COVID-19 and flu symptoms are so similar. She says the only way you can truly know is if you get a COVID test.

“So that you can take the correct course of treatment and action for either the flu or COVID-19," she said.

There are a few reasons why it’s important to know what you have. The CDC says COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than the flu and it causes more serious illnesses in some people. The agency also says COVID can also be contagious for longer. The last major difference between the two illnesses, Corson says, is that the flu has a vaccine.

“So we really are encouraging our community to take the best defense possible and get your flu vaccine as we move into this flu season alongside a pandemic.”

Both Corson and the CDC emphasized that while more is being learned about covid-19 every day, there is still a lot that is unknown about it. Public health is offering free flu shots at their building on 1800 Mount Vernon Avenue Monday through Friday, from 8-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. Walk-ins are accepted.