Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, but there are some key differences between the two.
While more is learned every day, there is still a lot that is unknown about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it. This page compares COVID-19 and flu, given the best available information to date.
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If you were potentially exposed to someone outside the workplace, you are encouraged to stay home, follow your primary physician’s guidance, and communicate your isolation status to your supervisor.
HR/Risk will contact you to initiate contact tracing so that your coworkers can be notified of their potential exposure and to begin cleaning and disinfection protocols if needed.
Employees with potential exposure in the workplace that have a higher risk of illness or death should
(1) consider taking FFCRA Leave for 14 days after the exposure notification if they are not able to telework,(2) should be tested as recommended by HR/Risk or their medical provider,(3) follow their healthcare professional’s directives, and(4) self-monitor for symptoms.
Employees that DO NOT HAVE SYMPTOMS should self-monitor for symptoms and may telework (if possible), opt to take FFCRA Leave, or may report to work following the CDC’s Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19.
You should quarantine if you are presently displaying symptoms, directed by HR/Risk, or by your doctor.
HR/Risk will discuss the specific details with you as the situation will vary from person-to-person based on the facts at the time of the discussion. However, as an example:
A doctor’s note is preferred, but HR/Risk will work with you to obtain an acceptable substitute
Being a “secondary contact” does not require you to be quarantined under current CDC guidelines. You would only be required to quarantine if you have had close contact with someone diagnosed with a presumptive or confirmed case of COVID-19. You should inform HR/Risk if someone in your household is ordered to quarantine.
You should do your best to avoid close contact with the exposed person for the duration of their quarantine because there is a possibility that they may not develop symptoms, but still be contagious as a carrier for the virus.
Monitor yourself for symptoms and regularly clean frequently touched surfaces. You can still report to work following the CDC’s Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19.
If you do notice symptoms, contact your primary health care provider, notify your supervisor/manager, and stay home. DO NOT report to work if you have symptoms.
Persons who develop new symptoms consistent with COVID-19 more than 3 months after the date of symptom onset of the most recent illness episode should be retested. Persons with recurrent symptoms after the first 3 months who test positive should be considered infectious and remain isolated until they again meet the criteria for discontinuation of isolation or of transmission-based precautions. Contact tracing during the person’s second period of symptoms is warranted. For persons who develop new symptoms consistent with COVID-19 during the first 3 months since the date of symptom onset of the most recent illness episode, retesting may be warranted if alternative etiologies for the illness cannot be identified. If reinfection is suspected, repeat isolation and contact tracing may be needed. The determination of whether a patient with a subsequently positive test is contagious to others should be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with infectious diseases specialists and public health authorities, after review of available information (e.g., medical history, time from an initial positive test, RT-PCR Ct values, and presence of COVID-19 signs or symptoms).
A person who has clinically recovered from COVID-19 and then is identified as a contact of a new case within 3 months of symptom onset of their most recent illness does not need to be quarantined or retested for SARS-CoV-2. However, if a person is identified as a contact of a new case 3 months or more after symptom onset, they should follow quarantine recommendations for contacts.
No. The symptom-based strategy is intended to replace the need for repeated testing.
Yes. It is recommended that all persons, with a few exceptions, wear cloth face coverings in public.1 The primary purpose of cloth face coverings is to limit transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from infected persons who may be infectious but do not have clinical symptoms of illness or may have early or mild symptoms that they do not recognize. Cloth face coverings may provide reassurance to others in public settings and be a reminder of the need to maintain social distancing. However, cloth face coverings are not personal protective equipment (PPE) and should not be used instead of a respirator or a facemask to protect a healthcare worker.
 Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
The immune response, including duration of immunity, to SARS-CoV-2 infection is not yet understood. Patients infected with other betacoronaviruses (MERS-CoV, HCoV-OC43), the genus to which SARS-CoV-2 belongs, are unlikely to be re-infected shortly (e.g., 3 months or more) after they recover. However, more information is needed to know whether similar immune protection will be observed for patients with COVID-19.
For persons who remain asymptomatic following recovery from COVID-19, retesting (e.g., as part of a contact tracing investigation) is not necessary during the first 3 months after the date of symptom onset. When a positive test occurs less than 3 months after the person’s symptom onset of their most recent illness, it is possible that the positive test represents a new infection or a persistently positive test associated with the previous infection. If a positive test occurs more than 3 months after a person’s symptom onset, clinicians and public health authorities should consider the possibility of reinfection. Until we have more information, the determination of whether a patient with a positive test in these situations is contagious to others should be made on a case-by-case basis. Consider consultation with infectious disease specialists and public health authorities to review all available information (e.g., medical history, time from an initial positive test, RT-PCR Ct values, and presence of COVID-19 signs or symptoms). Persons who are determined to be potentially infectious should undergo an evaluation and remain isolated until they again meet the criteria for discontinuation of isolation or discontinuation of transmission-based precautions, depending on their circumstances.