Fever. Chills. Fatigue. Loss of appetite. A cough. These are the symptoms on everyone's mind. But is it the coronavirus? Or the flu?
While the COVID-19 coronavirus has grabbed this season's headlines, influenza is still a current health concern this spring. Both the coronavirus and the flu are contagious and they have similar symptoms. What's more, they can be life-threatening to older adults and other medically vulnerable individuals.
There is one significant difference, however, according to Franciscan Physician Network provider Erica Kaufman West, MD, who specializes in infectious disease, and it's the main reason patients with the flu or COVID-19 need to be hospitalized: shortness of breath.
In a small number of patients, the coronavirus significantly affects the lungs. Breathing becomes difficult, and oxygen levels in the body drop, leading to increased fatigue and the chance of developing pneumonia.
"About 10 percent of people [with the COVID-19 coronavirus] get sick enough that they need to be admitted to the hospital for oxygen and other therapies," said Dr. Kaufman West. "And then they go home. About 5 percent end up in the ICU. And it's because of shortness of breath."
Most people, however, with COVID-19 will have milder symptoms and can recover at home.
"There's no treatment for this virus, so the feeling bad and the fatigue and the fevers, unfortunately we don't have anything for that. It's really just a matter of staying home," she said.
Still, Dr. Kaufman West advises patients to self-monitor, especially if fatigue increases and it gets harder to breathe.
"If your symptoms - fever, body aches and malaise - progress to where you can't hold a conversation or walk from your bedroom to the bathroom, you're too short of breath. That's when you need to go to the emergency room where we can check your oxygen levels."
Are you experiencing symptoms that you think are related to COVID-19? Take our online risk assessment to learn more.