MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Coronavirus vs. the flu.  What’s the deal?  The flu has killed far more people than coronavirus.

The CDC says an estimated 32 million Americans have come down with the flu since late September and about 18,000 people have died.

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Both are infectious respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms. Both are contagious and both can be deadly. However, despite appearing similar, the two illnesses are caused by different viruses.

In addition, a big fear factor is that no vaccine for coronavirus exists yet, and there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to COVID-19. Fear of the unknown can cause panic, but the message in the U.S. and around the world, is to stay calm and take whatever precautions are necessary to keep you and your family healthy.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, stay home when you are sick, cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and wash your hands often.

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Back to the flu, as of Mar. 5, 2020, the flu is showing much more of an impact on Americans than COVID-19, according to HopkinsMedicine.org. Here is the explanation on how the flu and COVID-19 are similar and how they are different.

SIMILARITIES

Symptoms: Both cause fever, cough, body aches, fatigue; sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

Can be mild or severe, even fatal in rare cases.

Can result in pneumonia.

Transmission:  Both can be spread from person to person through droplets in the air from an infected person coughing, sneezing or talking.

A possible difference: COVID-19 might be spread through the airborne route

Flu can be spread by an infected person for several days before their symptoms appear, and COVID-19 is believed to be spread in the same manner, but we don’t yet know for sure.

Treatment:  Neither virus is treatable with antibiotics, which only work on bacterial infections.

Both may be treated by addressing symptoms, such as reducing fever. Severe cases may require hospitalization and support such as mechanical ventilation.

Prevention: Both may be prevented by frequent, thorough hand washing, coughing into the crook of your elbow, staying home when sick and limiting contact with people who are infected.

DIFFERENCES

Cause

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COVID-19: Caused by one virus, the novel 2019 coronavirus, now called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2.

Flu: Caused by any of several different types and strains of influenza viruses.

Transmission

While both the flu and COVID-19 may be transmitted in similar ways, there is also a possible difference: COVID-19 might be spread through the airborne route, meaning that tiny droplets remaining in the air could cause disease in others even after the ill person is no longer near.

Antiviral Medications

COVID-19: Antiviral medications are currently being tested to see if they can address symptoms.

Flu: Antiviral medications can address symptoms and sometimes shorten the duration of the illness.

Vaccine

COVID-19: No vaccine is available at this time, though it is in progress.

Flu: A vaccine is available and effective to prevent some of the most dangerous types or to reduce the severity of the flu.

Infections

COVID-19: Approximately 97,870 cases worldwide; 209 cases in the U.S. as of Mar. 5, 2020.

Flu: Estimated 1 billion cases worldwide; 9.3 million to 45 million cases in the U.S. per year.

Deaths

COVID-19: Approximately 3,460 deaths reported worldwide; 14 deaths in the U.S., as of Mar. 6, 2020.

Flu: 291,000 to 646,000 deaths worldwide; 12,000 to 61,000 deaths in the U.S. per year.

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The COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly. Since this disease is caused by a new virus, people do not have immunity to it, and a vaccine may be many months away. Doctors and scientists are working on estimating the mortality rate of COVID-19, but at present, it is thought to be higher than that of most strains of the flu.