Learning the Differences Between COVID-19 & The Flu

With flu season quickly approaching and the COVID-19 pandemic with no end in sight, learning the differences between the two viruses can be critical to getting the correct diagnosis and treatment if you fall ill during the fall or winter. The novel coronavirus and the influenza virus are both upper respiratory infections, which can appear similar at first glance. However, the viruses are very different, and making sure you get the correct diagnosis and the right treatment can make all the difference. AFC Urgent Care Thornton offers both walk-in flu testing with rapid results and COVID-19 diagnostic swab testing seven days a week.   

How can I tell the difference between COVID-19 and the flu?

There are several differences between an infection with COVID-19 and an infection with the influenza virus.

The cause of the infection

The flu is caused by a strain of the influenza family of viruses. Influenza is constantly changing and mutating, which is why the flu shot needs to be updated each year. Typically there are one or two rampant strains of the virus each flu season, and the vaccine is tailored to prevent them from infecting patients. 

COVID-19 is specifically caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a new virus detected in December 2019 that has quickly spread worldwide. COVID-19 currently does not have a known direct cause and is being studied worldwide to determine how to prevent more cases and a vaccination. 

Virus Symptoms

Influenza symptoms include fever, chills, body aches and fatigue, similarly to COVID-19. However, the most common symptom exhibited by otherwise asymptomatic patients with COVID-19 is the sudden loss of the senses of smell and taste, which is not associated with the influenza virus. COVID-19 patients range from asymptomatic to requiring hospitalization due to the severity of the virus, including difficulty breathing and chest tightness. Regardless of where on the range of symptoms a patient lies, patients can be contagious for up to 14 days with the virus.

Vaccination & Treatment Methods

The flu shot is easily accessible and available on a walk-in basis at AFC Urgent Care Thornton. It is recommended to get the flu shot in September through mid-October to make sure you are protected for the duration of flu season. The flu can also be treated at our walk-in urgent care or at home with fluids and rest. COVID-19 does not have a known vaccination yet, though doctors and scientists worldwide are continuing to conduct research to determine what one could be. The most effective cures available for COVID-19 are only available via an IV and therefore can only be administered in a hospital. 


Both viruses can lead to severe and even fatal complications. The flu can lead to the inflammation of several different organs, including the heart, brain and your muscles, as well as bacterial infections and multi-organ failure. COVID-19 complications can lead to damage of the lungs, kidneys, heart and brain.

How can I prevent getting sick?

Getting a flu shot and following local and state health and safety guidelines are the easiest ways to reduce the chances of falling ill. By getting your flu shot from AFC Urgent Care Thornton, you will be able to help your physician narrow down a potential diagnosis. AFC Urgent Care Thornton also offers walk-in COVID-19 diagnostic swab testing seven days a week. 

Walk-In Flu Shots & COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing in Thornton, Westminster & Henderson, CO

If you are interested in getting a flu shot or have been exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, visit AFC Urgent Care Thornton today for walk-in care and testing. Our urgent care center is open seven days a week to accommodate busy schedules and urgent healthcare needs. Most major insurance plans are accepted.