Is it the flu COVID, or RSV? Here's How to Identify.
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Is it the flu, COVID, or RSV? Here’s How to Identify What’s Actually Making You Ill. The three respiratory infections COVID, flu, and RSV are currently causing what is being referred to as a “tripled emic” in the United States, as cases are on the rise and hospital beds are getting full.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that at least 15 million flu cases have been reported so far this season, which is a significant figure for this early in the season.


Hospitalization rates for the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have reached their highest levels ever since the CDC started keeping track of the illness during the 2018-2019 season.“tripled emic”


Moreover, COVID is still prevalent, with medium to high community levels still present in 44% of American counties. respiratory syncytial virus 


Moreover, COVID is still prevalent, with medium to high community levels still present in 44% of American counties. 

Because the symptoms of all three respiratory disorders are so similar, it can be challenging to distinguish one from the other based just on symptoms. Yet, according to specialists, knowing which virus you have might still be helpful for understanding your treatment choices or even preventing others from getting sick. low-grade fever 

Here are some things to think about if you have a persistent cough or low-grade fever, including the only surefire technique to identify the virus causing it.

Symptoms May Provide Some Information

When you have the flu, RSV, or COVID, you may have symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat, congestion, or runny nose.


According to David Kimberlin, MD, co-director of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Alabama and Children’s of Alabama, “the presentation of these respiratory viral infections overlaps very dramatically.”

Symptoms of Flu, RSV, and COVID-19
Fever or chills Usually Common Common
Cough Common Common Common
Shortness of breath Rarely Sometimes* Common
Fatigue Usually Sometimes Common
Muscle or body aches Usually Sometimes Common
Headache Common Sometimes Common
Net loss of taste or smell Rarely Rarely Sometimes


You could also be able to get hints from when symptoms first appear. Particularly the flu is known to have a relatively short incubation time, with symptoms appearing two to four days after an individual becomes infected.

According to Beth Thielen, MD, a physician-scientist at the University of Minnesota’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, flu symptoms typically appear swiftly and all at once in addition to having a brief incubation time. When symptoms of the flu first arise, many individuals report feeling as though they’ve been hit by a truck. Beth Thielen, MD,

Age and Location Affect Viruses.

The virus you may have contracted depends on where you are in the nation, says Dr. Kimberlin.

According to the most recent CDC statistics, the vast majority of US states are seeing high or very high respiratory disease activity, which is defined as a fever accompanied by a cough or sore throat.

More than half of the communities in the US are still classified as having low community transmission levels, despite the fact that COVID cases may be gradually increasing.

RSV may be severe for children and can cause disease in both, although it has primarily afflicted kids this season and can cause illness in both. RSV is one of the leading candidates if a youngster is currently suffering from a respiratory ailment. Nevertheless, if you’re an adult, it’s most likely the flu, with COVID a close second. This is especially true if you have a cough, fever, congestion, and runny nose.

Understanding Which Virus You Have Is Important.

The only real method to determine which virus is causing your symptoms is to be tested, but given that all three viruses have symptoms that are similar, is it even important to know your precise diagnosis? It can, according to experts.

PCR testing, or tests that you can receive in a clinical environment, are still more accurate even though at-home COVID tests are readily available. Several viruses may be tested for simultaneously by medical professionals, which is especially useful if you have symptoms that are consistent with all three viruses.

According to Dr. Thielen, there are therapies for influenza that are especially advised for small children, elderly individuals, and immunocompromised people. These treatments can shorten anyone’s sickness by one day.

Paxlovid, an antiviral medication for COVID, is also an option for those who are at a high risk of contracting a serious illness from infection. Only available by prescription, Paxlovid has been demonstrated to have an 88% reduction in the risk of hospitalization or death. Nevertheless, there is a chance that COVID symptoms will return after therapy, which is known as Paxlovid rebound. Yet, individuals who did not take Paxlovid have also had rebound sickness.

Several Viruses, Comparable Preventative Steps.

Dr. Kimberlin claims that all of these viruses are spread from person to person by contaminated respiratory droplets. This usually occurs while an infected person is talking, coughing, sneezing, or otherwise exhaling virus-laden droplets into the air. They can also be taken from surfaces and put in your mouth, eyes, or nose.

There are secure and efficient vaccinations for the flu and COVID. Vaccines can significantly lower the chance of hospitalization and mortality and may even diminish symptoms if you do end up with a breakthrough infection, even if they may not completely protect against symptomatic sickness.

Regardless of the virus at hand, the same measures taken during the COVID pandemic are beneficial in addition to the existing vaccinations. Apply the knowledge gained from COVID to the other factors contributing to your illness. Dr. Kimberlin added, “Just because it’s not COVID doesn’t mean it’s not anything that is dangerous. “In order to safeguard one another, we must exercise responsibility.”


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