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Seasonal Flu and COVID-19: What to know about both

As our community continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, getting a flu shot can help keep more New Mexicans healthy and out of the hospital.

What is the difference between the flu and COVID-19?

While the flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms, they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.

Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference based on symptoms alone and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.

More information about the seasonal flu

Can someone get COVID-19 and the flu at the same time?

Yes, people can be infected with both flu and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time and have symptoms of both influenza and COVID-19.

How do I know if I have COVID-19 or the flu?

Both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/having chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Change in or loss of taste or smell, although this is more frequent with COVID-19.

Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference based on symptoms alone and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.

Can you get a flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?

Yes, the CDC has said that both vaccines can be given on the same day but should be given in different arms.

Does the flu shot also protect you from COVID-19?

No, the flu shot won't protect you from developing COVID-19 but it's more important than ever this year. Most people older than six months can and should get the flu vaccine. Doing so reduces the chances of getting seasonal flu.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine also protect you from getting the flu?

No, the three available COVID-19 vaccines are designed to protect against serious illness from COVID-19. A separate flu vaccine is needed to protect against the seasonal flu.

Last year’s flu season wasn’t that bad. Will this year be a bad flu season?

Fortunately, the 2020-2021 flu season saw fewer cases, hospitalizations, and deaths than many previous years. This is likely due to the heightened social distancing, mask wearing and fewer large events.

The timing of flu is difficult to predict and can vary in different parts of the country and from season to season.

For more information about COVID-19 and the flu, visit the Centers for Disease Control.