Why COVID-19 Is Much

Worse Than the Flu

The Severity of COVID-19

There are a number of reasons why COVID-19 is more serious than the seasonal flu. While many public officials continue to draw comparisons between the flu and COVID-19, such comparisons are often focused on trying to find a way to relativize and minimize the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. While the flu may be in some ways underappreciated, as it causes millions of illnesses and tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S. alone each year, COVID-19 has already 3.53 million cases (as of July 16th, 2020) and has officially caused 138,000 deaths in the United States, making it far more deadly in a shorter period of time. The guide goes over some of the main differentiators between COVID-19 and the seasonal flu. If you are reading this guide because you are getting sick and want to know for sure what type of virus you have in your system, Genesis Medical Diagnostics offers online blood tests and health checks that are accurate, affordable, and provide you the results fast. Check out our COVID-19 online blood testing page to get started.

Why COVID-19 Is Much Worse Than the Flu 3

Our affordable, transparent process is very simple:


  1. Order your coronavirus test kit online 
  2. Visit one of our 2,500+ lab sites around the country and schedule the time that is best for you to have a teleconference while administering the blood test, with a doctor walking you through the process
  3. Send out your sample and wait 1 to 3 days for the results to come in


The laboratory we send your tests to are the same ones that internal and family medicine physicians use. Genesis Medical Diagnostics can provide you reliable, affordable, simple to use coronavirus testing solutions, so you can stay in control of your health. Contact us now to get started or if you have any questions. 

Learn About

COVID-19 Vs.

The Flu

Symptoms & Severity



Death Rate


Specific Differences Between COVID-19 & the Flu

Both COVID-19 and the flu are contagious viruses that can cause respiratory illness. Based on the data we currently have regarding this new virus, here are the main differences between the two:

#1: Symptoms and Severity

COVID-19 appears to come on more gradually than the flu. Flu symptoms such as runny nose, fatigue, diarrhea, fever, cough, muscle aches, etc. can appear quite suddenly, while the symptoms that appear with COVID-19 — fever, shortness of breath, chills, cough, loss of taste or smell, etc. — often start out mild and gradually get more severe. With both illnesses, older people and people with medical conditions appear to be at a higher risk of suffering complications. COVID-19 can also cause inflammatory syndrome in children. It’s important to point out that, though different respiratory viruses may cause similar symptoms, it can be difficult to distinguish between them based on symptoms alone.

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If we compare weekly counts of COVID-19 deaths with weekly counts of seasonal influenza deaths, we get a clearer picture of the severity of the virus. At the peak of the flu season in 2018 (week 3), there were 1,626 flu deaths in the US. During the week ending on April 21st, 2020, there were 15,455 reported deaths caused by COVID-19. These statistics suggest a many times higher fatality rate for COVID-19 than for the common flu. 

One of the main reasons COVID-19 is far more severe than the flu is that it is far more contagious.

#2: Contagiousness

The incubation period for the flu is 1-4 days before symptoms appear, while COVID-19’s incubation period can be 1-14 days. The measure to identify the contagiousness of a virus is called the “basic reproduction number,” which is symbolized as R0 (pronounced R-nought). This number is an estimated average number of people who catch a virus for every infected person. The flu has an R0 value of approximately 1.3, which means that on average, people with the virus give it to someone else about 30% of the time (though regionally and situationally there of course is a great deal of variance — this is a national average, after all).

The R0 value for COVID-19 is still being determined, but preliminary estimates have it somewhere between 2 and 3, though in certain regions it has been reported as high as 6. However, take R0 values with a grain of salt, as they are a trailing estimate and are notoriously tricky to get right. One of the big complications regarding this for COVID-19 is due to its long incubation period, where people who have yet to develop any symptoms are contagious. 

COVID-19 is more contagious than the flu and people with it are contagious for longer than the flu, two factors that have led to the virus being a pandemic in the first place.

#3: The Novelty of the Novel Coronavirus

Another differentiator between the flu and COVID-19 is that, while the flu has been known and managed for hundreds of years, one of the biggest challenges of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is that it is completely new. We simply don’t know a lot about how it spreads, how it infects people, the ways that it mutates as it moves through populations, and how the immune system responds to it. So we are essentially in the midst of a global trial run of trying to manage this new virus, without the extra safety precautions afforded to managing viruses like the flu (e.g. vaccines, approved antiviral drugs, and so on), which can help reduce duration, contagiousness, and slow down the spread of the flu through the community. Reportedly, we are still around a year away from a COVID-19 vaccine, and there are no approved antiviral treatments. 

#4: Death Rate

According to reports, the typical flu season in the U.S. has a death rate of approximately 0.1%. The death rate for COVID-19 in the US, on the other hand, has been reported to be approximately 3.9%. However, once again, due to the novelty of the virus, don’t take this rate as universal — it is, once again, an average based on the known data. First of all, not everyone who gets COVID-19 gets tested and diagnosed with the disease. Many people who get the illness do not seek out testing. Second, unlike the flu, everyone in the population is theoretically susceptible to COVID-19. What is clear, however, is that COVID-19 is significantly more fatal than the regular flu. How much this will change after a vaccine and other antiviral measures are introduced remains unknown. Never before has the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic for a coronavirus. They have declared flu pandemics, but this is the first type of pandemic for this type of virus.

#5: Prevention

Preventing becoming infected by and spreading COVID-19 is much more difficult than the flu. That’s why measures like wearing masks, social distancing, and so on have been implemented. To manage the pandemic, it is important to keep the rate of spread as slow as possible. Washing your hands like a pro, avoiding touching your mouth, eyes, and nose, avoiding contact with sick people, and staying home when you are sick, are some of the most effective preventative measures we have available to us. Don’t underestimate them! These are all effective ways of significantly reducing chances that you and those around you get COVID-19.

COVID-19 vs. The Flu

Although many people claim that SARS-CoV-2 is just like the flu, and therefore the global response of self-quaranteening, social distancing, wearing masks, etc. is too severe, this is not true. COVID-19 is much more contagious, much more deadly, and much less known and therefore difficult to treat than the flu. COVID-19 is also mutating as it moves across the world, which makes it an even greater public health risk.

Get Tested For COVID-19 Online

If you are showing symptoms of having a respiratory illness and want to know for sure if it’s COVID-19, the flu, or something else, Genesis Medical Diagnostics is here to help. We offer blood tests for COVID-19 online. Learn more about how we can help now. We partner with the Baylor College of Medicine to provide you with a reliable, fast blood test. All the tests we offer are conducted in a CLIA-approved laboratory. If you want peace of mind knowing whether you have been infected or whether you are still contagious, contact us today or directly order a lab test; we will ship it out to you ASAP.

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