COVID-19 and the flu: What you need to know

Getting a flu shot can help better protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community. It can also help reduce the burden on healthcare systems responding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In turn, this may help reduce the chances of what some people call a “twindemic.” This means two epidemics happening at the same time.

COVID-19 and the flu share many similar symptoms. If you receive your flu vaccine, it will reduce your chances of getting the flu. This can help ensure a more accurate diagnosis and treatment of your symptoms.

Incubation period 2-14 days 1-4 days
Symptom onset Gradual Sudden
New loss of taste or smell  
Fever and chills
Shortness of breath
Muscle or body aches
Sore throat
Nasal congestion or runny nose
Nausea or vomiting

FAQs about COVID-19 and the flu

Will it be safe for me to get the flu shot during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Doctors’ offices, hospitals, and pharmacies are working hard to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

All locations should, at the very least, require masks or cloth face coverings and social distancing.

Please check with the location you plan to visit. You may need to follow a specific process to get your shot. This may include setting up an appointment or getting a temperature check.

Remember to social distance and wear a cloth face covering when going out and getting your flu shot.

Can I get a flu vaccine if I might have or know I have COVID-19?
No. Stay home if you have symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19.

Make sure you are following the advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for self-quarantine after a positive test or while recovering.

You can also check with your primary doctor about when it’s safe for you to get the flu shot.

Will a flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19?
No. However, the flu shot has many other important benefits. Flu vaccines can reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death. Getting a flu shot this fall will be more important than ever. Not only will it reduce your risk from flu, it may help conserve already-stretched healthcare resources.

Could the flu shot raise my risk of getting COVID-19?
No. According to the CDC, there is no evidence that getting a flu vaccine increases your risk of getting COVID-19.

What is the difference between Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19?
Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses. But they are caused by different viruses.

COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2). Flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.

Many of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar. That’s why testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.

The CDC outlines these key differences between the two:

  • If you experience new loss of taste or smell, that may indicate COVID-19 rather than flu.
  • If you have COVID-19, it could take longer to develop symptoms than if you had flu.
  • If you have COVID-19, you may be contagious for a longer period than if you had flu.
  • COVID-19 is more contagious among certain populations and age groups than flu. Also, COVID-19 has been observed to have more “superspreading” events than flu. This means the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread quickly. It can easily spread to a lot of people and result in continuous spreading among people afterward.
  • The risk of complications for healthy children is higher for flu compared to COVID-19. However, infants and children with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for both flu and COVID-19.

Learn more about COVID-19
Learn more about the flu

Will there be flu along with COVID-19 in the fall and winter?
The CDC believes this is likely. In this context, getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever to avoid a “twindemic”. The CDC recommends that all people 6 months and older (with rare exceptions) get a flu vaccine.


Can I have flu and COVID-19 at the same time?
Yes. Health experts are still studying how common this can be.

Many of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar. This makes it hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Diagnostic testing can help see if you are sick with flu or COVID-19. Contact your doctor if you notice a change in your symptoms.


Is COVID-19 more dangerous than flu?
Flu and COVID-19 can both result in serious illness. This can include illness resulting in hospitalization or death. There is still much to learn about COVID-19. It appears as if COVID-19 is more deadly than seasonal influenza. However, it is too early to draw any conclusions from the current data. This may change as we learn more about the number of people who have mild illnesses or test positive for the virus but have no symptoms.


Is there a test that can detect both flu and COVID-19?
Yes, but it’s not easily accessible to the public. The CDC has developed a test that will check for A and B type seasonal flu viruses and SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

This test will be used by U.S. public health laboratories. The CDC says testing for these viruses at the same time will give public health officials important information about how flu and COVID-19 are spreading.

Will the new test that detects both flu and COVID-19 replace other tests?
No. This new test is designed for use at -supported public health laboratories. The use of this specialized test will be focused on public health surveillance efforts. It will not replace any tests currently used for the public.

For more details about COVID-19 testing, visit our COVID-19 testing FAQs.

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