What is Influenza (Flu)?
    Influenza or the “flu” is an acute infection of the respiratory tract caused by a virus, according to the Ministry of Health and Wellness (Jamaica). Some examples of your respiratory tracts are your nose, throat and lungs. The flu spreads easily from person to person.

    How is the flu spread?
    Flu viruses spread mainly by coughing, sneezing and by coming into close contact with an infected person. The Ministry of Health and Wellness notes that viruses circulate worldwide and can affect anybody in any age group.

    What are the symptoms of flu?

    • Symptoms include fever/chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache, and runny or stuffy nose.
    • The symptoms of a cold may be similar, but are different in some ways. Unlike the flu, a common cold is often mild and limited to sneezing, runny nose and sore throat.

    What is the coronavirus?
    The Ministry of Health and Wellness explains that coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are known to cause illnesses that range from the common cold to more severe and deadly diseases, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

    What is COVID-19?
    The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused from a novel coronavirus, which the Ministry of Health and Wellness states is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.

    How similar is COVID-19 to the flu?
    COVID-19 and influenza viruses both cause respiratory disease, which presents as a wide range of illnesses. Some people may not have symptoms (asymptomatic), or only mild symptoms. However, others may have severe symptoms that can lead to death.

    The viruses which cause COVID-19 and the flu are also spread in a similar way, which is by touching people who are infected and surfaces that are infected, or breathing in droplets that from people who have sneezed or coughed.

    How different are the symptoms of COVID-19 from the flu or a cold
    According to the Alberta Health Services in Canada, these are the differences between the symptoms of the common cold, the flu and COVID-19:

    Symptoms COVID-19 Cold Flu
    Fever Common Rare Common
    Fatigue Sometimes Sometimes Common
    Cough Common (usually dry) Mild Common (usually dry)
    Sneezing No Common No
    Aches and pains Sometimes Common Common
    Runny or stuff nose Rare Common Sometimes
    Sore throat Sometimes Common Sometimes
    Diarrhea Rare No Sometimes in children
    Headache Sometimes Rare Common
    Shortness of breath Sometimes No No

    Is COVID-19 more dangerous than the flu?
    The short answer is yes, according to the World Health Organization.

    Although the viruses which cause the flu and COVID-19 are spread similarly, the speed at which the two viruses are transmitted is different. The time it takes from a person is infected to the point of showing symptoms is 5-6 days for persons with COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization. For persons with the flu, the period is three days. This means that the flu spreads faster than COVID-19.

    The number of people someone with COVID-19 is able to infect is also higher. An infected person can infect between two to three other people, which is much higher than the flu.

    The number of people who will develop severe responses to the diseases is also higher among persons with COVID-19. The WHO states that that the majority, 80 per cent of infected people will have mild or no visible symptoms, while 15 per cent will have severe infections, requiring oxygen and five per cent will have critical infections, requiring ventilation. The fraction of severe and critical infection are higher than what is observed in persons with the flu.

    Death from COVID-19 appears higher than death from the seasonal flu, the WHO further states. Although the rate of death from COVID-19 is still being understood, the current data suggests that three to four per cent of infected persons will die compared to less than one per cent (0.1 per cent) for the flu. However, mortality is to a large extent determined by access to quality healthcare.

    Why should I take COVID-19 so seriously if most people experience mild or no symptoms?
    According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States, although for most people the risk of developing a severe response to an infection is low, older adults and people of any age with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk of developing severe complications due to COVID-19.

    In addition, it also important for you to take the necessary precautions to prevent and spread the virus which causes COVID-19, because spread might be possible before people show symptoms. The CDC states that there have been reports of this happening with COVID-19, although it is not the main way the virus spreads.

    What can I do to prevent infection and spread of COVID-19?
    The Ministry of Health and Wellness maintains that every Jamaican should take these precautions to prevent infection and spread of COVID-19 and other viral illnesses:

    • Maintaining a distance of at least one metre (three feet) from persons who are coughing or sneezing
    • Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and discard it, then wash your hands immediately
    • Refrain from touching your face
    • Performing hand hygiene frequently, by washing your hands with soap and water especially when visibly soiled, or an alcohol-based sanitiser with a minimum of 62 per cent alcohol

    How can we address stigma due to COVID-19?
    The Ministry of Health and Wellness and the CDC reminds people that diseases, including COVID-19, can make anyone sick regardless of race or ethnicity.

    The Ministry Health further states that persons should not allow fear to override reason or lead to violence and social exclusion.






    Centers for Disease Control, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), Key Facts.

    World Health Organization, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), Situation Report-46. Data as reported by National Authorities March 6, 2020.