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Is it covid, flu or RSV? Some signs can help distinguish diseases Main stories

However, the only way to know for sure is to get tested.

“I don’t think anyone would ever say, ‘Hey, look, I think you have a virus based on your symptoms,’ and say with certainty what kind of virus it is,” said Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.

Do symptoms appear gradually or suddenly?

Flu symptoms tend to come on more suddenly than those of Covid or RSV.

“Influenza usually starts with a sharp fever that happens quite quickly. This is somewhat different from RSV and Covid, where we think of a slow escalation of symptoms,” said Dr. Scott Roberts, an infectious disease specialist at the Yale School of Medicine.

How long has it been since the autopsy?

Diseases have different incubation periods – the time between infection and the appearance of symptoms. On average, flu symptoms tend to develop two days after exposure to the virus, while RSV symptoms tend to disappear four to six days will appear, and the typical incubation of Covid three or four days for the omicron option.

“If I go to a party and have symptoms the next day, it’s probably the flu because the incubation period can be as little as 24 hours,” Roberts said.

Age significantly affects the symptoms and severity of the disease

RSV is unlikely to make a healthy adult feel very ill, while Covid and the flu certainly can.

“In general, if you’re a young, healthy adult or you’re not at an extreme age and have a pretty severe disease, it’s probably not RSV,” Roberts said.

The groups most vulnerable to severe RSV infections are infants, children with lung disease, adults over the age of 65, and people with weakened immune systems.

Symptoms can also look different depending on your age and immune status. Many children are exposed to respiratory viruses for the first time this year as they return to normal schooling and socializing, so it may be harder for their bodies to clear the infection, which can lead to more widespread symptoms.

According to Esper, nearly a quarter of children have gastrointestinal symptoms (such as diarrhea, stomach pain, or vomiting) due to viral infections. It is less common in adults with seasonal flu or RSV.

People with weakened immune systems, meanwhile, are more likely to develop severe symptoms or pneumonia from any of the three viruses.

Think about what virus is most common in your community

Disease experts expect the number of Covid cases to rise during the holidays as more people travel and gather indoors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average daily number of cases of the disease has increased by almost 11% in the past two weeks. NBC News tally.

But it is difficult to determine local levels of Covid transmission as many people use home tests. RSV and flu tests, on the other hand, are performed in a doctor’s office or ordered by prescription.

It seems that the peak of RSV infection in the country has passed. Although the CDC does not keep a national count of RSV cases, number of positive weekly tests dropped from more than 17,000 in the week ending Nov. 5 to about 9,000 in the week ending Saturday.

On the contrary, the number of cases of influenza is increasing rapidly. The national rate of influenza testing which came back positive, rose from about 8% in the week ending October 30th to nearly 15% in the week ending November 13th. they were the tallest at this time of year for more than a decade.

Esper said he expects the Cleveland Clinic to “swim in flu” in two weeks.

However, the picture varies by region. In the Northeast, Roberts said, “we’ve seen an uptick in RSV over the last month or two, and it’s actually leveled off — which is great news — and then the flu, just in the last few weeks we’ve seen an exponential increase.”

“The southeastern United States – Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi – they saw something opposite. First they saw a spike in influenza, and now you’re seeing RSV start to catch up,” he added.

Treatments and vaccines are available

Unlike Covid and the flu, there are no vaccines or general treatments for RSV.

“RSV scares me the most, probably because there’s nothing you can do about it and so many young kids haven’t seen it. We are really seeing record spikes in our pediatric hospitals,” Roberts said.

However, to shorten the duration of flu symptoms, doctors usually prescribe Tamiflu or one of the three other approved treatments. For some people with Covid, doctors may prescribe Paxlovid.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, highlighted the benefits of flu shots and Covid boosters.

“At this point, when we have a lot of flu, we still have a decent amount of RSV, we still have a good amount of Covid, the most important thing for people to do is to get vaccinated,” Jha said at a briefing on Tuesday. “It keeps you out of the hospital.”


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