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Flu vs. COVID-19: What We Can Expect for the 2022-23 Flu Season

For many years, flu season went as expected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended annual flu vaccines, particularly for elderly people and others with a higher risk of flu complications. Fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, and muscle aches were typical signs of the flu—and then COVID-19 entered the picture.

The start of fall brings the start of another flu season. With the 2022-23 flu season now upon us, you might wonder if COVID-19 will have an impact again. With our return to pre-pandemic activities, less masking, and decreased immunity, the CDC and other health organizations do expect this year’s flu season to be worse than the last.

Because so many flu symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms overlap, confusion continues to be at an all-time high. Flu testing—or even better, flu/COVID-19 combo testing at the same time—is your best defense to take control of your health.

Keep reading to learn more about flu symptoms vs. COVID-19 symptoms, what’s new with flu vaccines and flu testing, and how the physician-led team of healthcare professionals at MD Now can get you tested, diagnosed, and treated quickly.

Flu vs. COVID-19: The Similarities

Flu and COVID-19 have three main things in common: how they’re spread, their symptoms, and potential complications.

How They’re Spread

The viruses that cause the flu and COVID-19 are both spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks. Both viruses can also spread if someone touches a surface with the virus on it—such as a doorknob or elevator button—and then touches their own mouth, nose, or eyes.

Their Symptoms

Flu symptoms vs. COVID-19 symptoms have many similarities, including:

• Fever
• Cough
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Shortness of breath
• Fatigue
• Headache
• Muscle aches
• Nausea or vomiting (more common in children)

Some people have no symptoms at all, while others range from mild to severe. Therefore, it’s practically impossible to diagnose flu vs. COVID-19 on your own. You can even have both illnesses at the same time. Flu/COVID-19 combo testing at MD Now—where you get both tests in one convenient visit—is a simple way to confirm which virus (or viruses) you have, so you can get the right treatment.

Potential Complications

Both flu and COVID-19 can lead to serious complications, including:

• Pneumonia
• Respiratory distress
• Heart attack
• Stroke
• Organ failure
• Death

Flu vs. COVID-19: The Differences

There are also some key differences between flu and COVID-19, from the viruses themselves to when symptoms appear to your treatment and prevention options.

The Viruses

COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, while flu is caused by influenza A and B viruses.

When Symptoms Appear

COVID-19 symptoms generally appear within two weeks of exposure. Flu symptoms usually appear much faster, about 1-4 days after exposure. But COVID-19 seems to be more contagious and spreads more quickly than the flu. COVID-19 also has a higher mortality rate.

Treatment and Prevention Options

Both flu and COVID-19 can be treated with antivirals for people with an increased risk of hospitalization. There are several flu antivirals already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). COVID-19 antivirals, such as Paxlovid, can be prescribed for those at high risk of COVID-19 disease progression. Ask your MD Now provider for more information or visit CDC.gov.

The flu vaccine is still your best bet for avoiding the flu. New for the 2022-23 flu season, the CDC now recommends annual flu vaccines for anyone six months of age and older.

New Developments in the Worldwide Fight Against Flu

Because the flu virus mutates so quickly, we don’t have a universal vaccine that provides lifelong immunity against all strains and subtypes of the flu. Each year, researchers must identify which strains of the flu virus are expected to be most prevalent. The 2022-23 flu vaccine will offer protection against the most common strains.

The CDC, FDA, World Health Organization (WHO), and others collect and review data on flu strains in the Southern Hemisphere—where our summer is their winter—to create approved vaccines for the upcoming flu season.

Cases Are Soaring in the Southern Hemisphere

This year, Australia (a prominent country in the Southern Hemisphere) has seen a massive wave of flu cases that have already eclipsed pre-pandemic rates. COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing as well as Omicron variants continue to spread. Again, this is likely due to the rise of pre-pandemic behaviors combined with less flu immunity.

The United States is potentially on track for the same results in 2022-23, which means getting tested for both flu and COVID-19 is more critical than ever.

Find Flu Testing Near Me

Feeling sick and don’t know what it is? Know Now at MD Now. Our clinics are open convenient hours and no appointment is necessary—just walk in!

At MD Now, we test for, diagnose, and treat a full spectrum of illnesses including flu, COVID-19, strep, and more. Find an MD Now clinic today and walk in for High-Quality Healthcare Right Now.


Happy Memorial Day Weekend

All MD Now urgent care locations are open
on Memorial Day from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Find a Clinic