Experts break down how COVID-19 spreads compared to flu

9 ways to avoid getting sick this winter. Drink plenty Keep it clean Sleep soundly Have some yogurt everyday Load up on garlic Take vitamins and probiotics Exercise regularly Ditch the booze Stay calm

This year, the flu season has the coronavirus pandemic coinciding with it. Although both viruses have led to concern from health care officials over a “twindemic,” it’s likely that some measures people have been taken to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus has helped with influenza.

As of Oct. 27, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported there are 225,084 total deaths due to COVID-19. The agency estimated that in the 2018-2019 flu season, there were 34,200 deaths.

Wearing masks, socially distancing and washing hands have all seemed to help spur decreased influenza activity in the Southern Hemisphere, according to a September report from the CDC.

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“Influenza (the flu) and COVID-19, the illness caused by the pandemic coronavirus, are both contagious respiratory illnesses, meaning they affect your lungs and breathing, and can be spread to others. Although the symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu can look similar, the two illnesses are caused by different viruses,” Johns Hopkins reported.

There are also some differences between how each of the illnesses spread. HuffPost has a breakdown of the two and how they can be contracted.

Respiratory droplets are the primary method of spreading

Similar to the flu, people can become infected with the coronavirus through respiratory droplets expressed when someone is talking, sneezing or coughing, according to the CDC.

“The major mode of transmission with influenza is by droplet,” Dr. Keith Roach, an internist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian told AARP.

Airborne transmission is a factor

Particles lingering in the air for hours can potentially spread respiratory viruses, the CDC reported. That includes the coronavirus.

Health reported that experts can’t definitively say whether or not the flu is airborne, however, since the virus can’t necessarily hang in the air for long periods. Yet a study published in August found evidence of microscopic, non-respiratory particles with the ability to carry influenza between guinea pigs.

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The influence of super spreaders

There is evidence that like COVID-19, the flu can spread at huge, superspreader events, or those were there’s the transmission of a communicable disease to a large portion of uninfected individuals. At such events, viruses “act more airborne,” and “smaller droplets [that] linger longer, travel further,” Dr. Jennifer Lighter, MD, a pediatric infectious disease doctor at NYU Langone, told Health.

Asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread is more likely with COVID-19

Influenza and the coronavirus can spread asymptomatically and pre-symptomatically. For the flu, there is a shorter window of incubation or time from infection to illness. That can be between one to four days, according to the World Health Organization. However, symptoms of the coronavirus can appear as early as two days after infection or as late as 14 days, the CDC reported. That means there is more time that the coronavirus can infect someone without symptoms being present.

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COVID-19 linked to a higher rate of spreading

Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech who studies airborne viruses, told HuffPost that in general, a person with the flu will spread it to an average of 1 to 1.3 others. For COVID-19, each infected person can pass it to an average of 2 to 2.5 others. A person can spread it to at least 10 other people in some cases but in other cases, it could spread to less.

The reason is that there is a lack of immunity to COVID-19 in the population, Marr said. Precautions like social distancing and mask-wearing are also factors.

Lingering viruses on surfaces

The CDC stated it is possible to spread the coronavirus when touching a surface contaminated with the virus and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. The same is true for influenza, Intergis Health reported.

“This is why it’s important to avoid touching your face and to wash your hands often,” the website for Oklahoma’s largest not-for-profit and state-owned health care system said.

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