Viral Respiratory Infections
A respiratory tract infection is an infection of the lungs, airways, sinuses, or throat. While respiratory infections occur year-round, there is a significant increase in these infections during the fall and winter months, commonly referred to as the cold and flu season, when people tend to spend more time inside.
During this season, it helps to know the common symptoms and how to avoid spreading illness to those around you. With COVID-19 now in the mix, understanding the difference between common respiratory infections and your treatment options is even more important. In this article, we provide information to help you prepare for the upcoming respiratory virus season.
What is the difference between the flu, COVID-19, and RSV?
The flu, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are all highly contagious respiratory infections caused by viruses. The flu by influenza virus, COVID-19 by SARS-CoV-2 virus, and RSV by respiratory syncytial virus. It is possible for a person to be infected with multiple viruses at the same time.
What causes the flu?
The flu is caused by the influenza virus and spreads easily during the winter months when people spend time together indoors. There are many strains of influenza virus, and the virus can change from year to year.
What causes COVID-19?
COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2, a new coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses named for their corona-like shape. Sometimes, the general term “coronavirus” is used with COVID-19, but this is technically incorrect because there are many types of coronaviruses in this family, including SARS-CoV-1 which emerged in 2002 and other coronaviruses that commonly infect humans.
What causes RSV?
RSV is caused by the respiratory syncytial virus, a highly contagious virus that can infect children and adults. In adults and older children, RSV is typically a mild illness very similar to the common cold. In infants and the elderly, the symptoms can be more severe.
What are the symptoms of the flu, COVID-19, and RSV?
According to the CDC, the flu and COVID-19 share very similar symptoms, and it might be hard to tell which of the two you have. It can take longer for people infected with COVID-19 to show symptoms and people stay infectious longer than with the flu. A symptom that seems to be unique to COVID-19 is loss of taste or smell. Both viruses can cause:
- Muscle soreness
- Shortness of breath
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
RSV can infect anyone, but is most dangerous in infants and the elderly. Its symptoms are similar to those of the common cold. They tend to run their course with only mild intensity in adults and older children. In infants and elderly, symptoms tend to be more severe, and can include fevers and wheezing. Some cases may require hospitalization, but most infections run their course within 1 to 2 weeks. A baby contracting RSV may require a lot of attention until recovery.
How do I determine if I have COVID-19 or the flu?
Since the symptoms are so similar, the best way to accurately determine whether you have COVID-19 or the flu is to get tested. Med Plus Immediate Care is equipped to do rapid flu and COVID-19 tests as well as the PCR COVID-19 test.