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Flu vs. COVID-19

December 08, 2020 | Pharmacy

Man entering a CVS Health point of care testing site through the patient entrance of a kiosk.

When DawnName changed to protect patient privacy., a health care provider from Maine, felt the familiar tickle in her throat along with congestion, she thought it was seasonal allergies. When her condition became worse, she decided to get tested for COVID-19, which shares similar symptoms. Waiting for the result was not only stressful, but also delayed her ability to find out what she had and how to treat it.

“The waiting is so anxiety-provoking,” says Dawn. “Do I have it? Do I not have it? Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can figure out what to do next.” As it turned out, Dawn discovered she did have COVID-19.

COVID-19, influenza, strep throat, seasonal allergies and even wildfire smoke cause similar symptoms, such as a sore throat, runny nose, headache or cough — but have very different treatments and isolation requirements. A person with COVID-19, for example, must isolate for 10 days, while patients with strep throat are not considered infectious after 24 hours on antibiotics.

Angela Patterson, Chief Nurse Practitioner Officer at MinuteClinic, says a quick and accurate diagnosis is critical for improving health outcomes, avoiding unnecessary isolations and getting people back to work and school.

That’s why as cases skyrocket, CVS Health is expanding its nationwide COVID-19 testing services to offer rapid-result tests at nearly 1,000 sites by the end of the year. Results can be provided within 30 minutes or less. Since March, CVS Health has administered eight million COVID-19 tests at 4,000 drive-thru locations and has expanded testing to include children ages 10 and up.

Man entering a CVS Health testing kiosk using the patient entrance door
New Rapid-Result test kiosks keep patients and CVS Health staff safe.

“Patients with concerns about being COVID-19 positive — and who are COVID-19 positive — can more quickly get that diagnosis so that they can more quickly receive the appropriate treatment,” says Angela. “It’s also about minimizing community spread so that patients have the information to protect and care for themselves and protect their loved ones.”

Symptomatic patients who test negative for COVID-19 at a CVS Health testing site can also visit an on-site MinuteClinic to get tested for other highly contagious illnesses, like flu or strep throat.

And, if you're healthy and haven't gotten a flu shot yet, it's not too late to get one. Angela reminds us that patients who contract both COVID-19 and the flu are at risk for increased complications. “It’s critical that everyone who is able to receive the vaccine is vaccinated against the flu this year, especially those who are at high risk.”

COVID-19, infuenza and seasonal allergy symptoms

COVID-19, influenza and seasonal allergies share common symptoms, which makes a quick and accurate diagnosis critical for improving health outcomes and recovery times.

Commmon symptoms of COVID-19, flu and seasonal allergies:

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Fatigue (tiredness)

  • Headache

  • Sore throat

  • Runny or stuffy nose

Seasonal allergies do not usually cause shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, unless a person has a respiratory condition like asthma that can be triggered by pollen exposure.

Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020