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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- With health officials still battling the coronavirus pandemic, many doctors have begun to inform and implore citizens to get the flu vaccination.

With both illnesses going around, one question has become common: How do I know if I have the flu or COVID-19?

Well, both viruses impact the respiratory system and share some common symptoms, so Dr. Caitlin Anderson, M.D., M.P.H, with Internal Medicine Specialists of Atlanta, shares some of the key differences between the illnesses as well as things to know.

First, "These two illnesses are caused by different viruses and they’re treated differently," said Dr. Anderson. Symptoms for COVID-19 range from no symptoms at all (or asymptomatic) to severe symptoms and illness that requires hospitalization.

“Some symptoms that can be seen with both flu and COVID-19 are fever, sore throat and cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, a runny nose, headache, body aches or muscle soreness,” Dr. Anderson said. “Some people can also experience diarrhea or vomiting.”

But there is one major difference: COVID-19 can cause a change in, or loss of, taste or smell.

“That’s not something we see with flu illness, but it’s been a common symptom for those with COVID-19,” Dr. Anderson said.

However, the only way to know for sure which illness you may have is to visit a physician and get tested.

“Your doctor can test you for the flu and COVID-19, and testing is essential to ensure you get the right treatment and take the correct steps to prevent spreading the illness,” said Dr. Anderson. 

Although there is medication to ease symptoms, shorten the duration and prevent the flu, the same is not yet true for COVID-19.

“There are not currently any drugs or other therapeutics approved to prevent COVID-19 after you have been exposed like there are for flu, but there are studies in progress,” said Dr. Anderson. “If you are sick with COVID-19, your best form of treatment includes staying home, taking as-needed medications to alleviate your symptoms, and staying in touch with your doctor, especially if you develop worsening symptoms that might require hospitalization.”

But there’s one major way to help prevent flu and that’s the flu shot, which Dr. Anderson recommends to all of her patients.

She added that “Getting a flu shot this year is particularly important, since less cases of the flu will ensure we have the resources necessary to take care of patients with COVID-19.” 

Experts say a flu shot may help fight a "twindemic"

Doctors continue to urge Georgians to get the flu vaccine

Copyright 2020 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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