How to spot the difference between the flu and coronavirus

Minnesota health officials are still investigating the state’s third coronavirus case, this time in Anoka County. As the monitoring continues, many are wondering, what are the ways to spot coronavirus?

Helen Strike is the Incident Commander for COVID-19 throughout Allina Health; she dealt with the Ebola outbreak a few years ago.

“COVID-19 is a lot like the flu where it can affect someone differently from being a mild illness to being a critical illness. I think we are definitely seeing the same thing from COVID-19—it is behaving more like SARS or the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, maybe getting to the lungs in some people faster or harder,” she said.

Strike described the symptoms to watch out for when trying to figure out the difference between the flu and COVID-19.

“We really need to think about COVID-19 when it’s behaving not like a flu that you’ve had before—when you have a fever that’s around 103/104, when you really feel like you have a cough that doesn’t go away, when you have shortness of breath—that’s when you need to make a call to a provider,” she said.

Meanwhile, officials are investigating just how many people the patient in Anoka County may have come into contact before being diagnosed with coronavirus.

The person is in their 30s and appears to have been infected out of state after having contact with international travelers. The person is now in critical condition, but according to officials, they had did not have any “glaringly apparent” underlying health conditions. The patient did not get officially tested for the virus until about 10 days after having symptoms.

The patient apparently started feeling sick on Feb. 28 and sought care on March 3rd but was sent home at that time because symptoms didn't require hospitalization. They went back Monday and tested positive for COVID-19.

Health officials said the person took great care in trying to keep away from others and limiting contact, which is good news to minimize the spread.

Health officials again stressed the importance of all Minnesotans continuing to do those things that can limit the spread of the coronavirus:
•    Stay home and away from others if you are sick.
•    Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue.
•    Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water.
•    Avoid touching your face throughout the day.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread primarily by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza is spread. It can also spread when people touch surfaces that have been contaminated by an infected person and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider immediately. For more information from the CDC, click here.

More information about coronavirus can be found on MDH’s Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website. MDH has set up a COVID-19 public hotline that is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The hotline number is 651-201-3920.