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COVID or the Flu? Testing Will Tell You

As of May 12, 2023, Valley Medical and Wellness no longer offers COVID-19 testing.

COVID-19 isn’t near the pandemic it used to be, but it’s still out there and still spreading. To make things worse, it’s now flu season in North America, and it’s difficult to tell the difference between the two viruses. Both COVID and the flu are spread from person-to-person by airborne particles expelled when people talk, sneeze, or cough.

COVID-19 and the flu exhibit many of the same symptoms, so if you have symptoms, how do you know which virus you have? The most effective way to tell the difference between COVID and the flu is to take a combined COVID/flu test. Only then can doctors prescribe the right treatment for you.

COVID and Flu: Similarities and Differences

COVID-19 and the flu are both contagious respiratory illnesses, although they’re caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, while the flu is caused by influenza viruses.

While these two viruses are similar, they are also different in some fundamental ways. We know that COVID-19 spreads faster than the flu and can be more deadly. Those infected with COVID-19 typically take longer to show symptoms and stay contagious for longer, too. (Flu symptoms usually appear 1-3 days after infection, while COVID symptoms appear anywhere from 2 to 14 days after infection.)

Despite those differences, the two viruses exhibit many of the same symptoms, including:

In addition, COVID victims often experience a loss of taste or smell. This is not common with flu victims.

How Difficult Is It to Tell COVID and the Flu Apart?

Because the symptoms are so similar, it’s difficult for the average person to tell the difference between COVID and the flu. For some people, the only noticeable difference is COVID’s frequent loss of taste or smell. However, that symptom doesn’t occur with all COVID victims.

In short, based on symptoms alone, not even trained professionals can tell the difference between COVID and the flu.

What to Do If You Have Flu or COVID Symptoms? Get a Combined COVID and Flu Test!

In most instances, the only way to tell the difference between COVID and the flu is by testing for each virus. A robust PCR test with a nasal swab can quickly reveal whether a person is suffering from COVID or influenza.

Valley Medical and Wellness administers RT-PCR swab tests that accurately tell whether you’re infected with COVID or the flu—or if you have a stubborn cold. Valley Medical tests for all major COVID variants (including the Delta, Beta, Gamma, Iota, and Omicron variants) and influenza. Testing is easy via a simple nasal swab, and results are typically available the same day. These combined COVID/flu tests are covered by most major health insurers, including Medicare and Medicaid. They’re administered by trained staff while you wait in the comfort of your own car.

What Are COVID and Flu Treatments?

Fortunately, both COVID and the flu are easily treatable, and Valley Wellness offers both COVID and flu treatments. You need to take the right medicine for the right virus, however. Taking flu medicine won’t help you if you have a COVID infection, and vice versa.

Based on the results of your COVID/flu test, the experts at Valley Medical can prescribe the right treatment for your specific virus. We prescribe Paxlovid if for COVID and Tamiflu for influenza.

Schedule Your COVID and Flu Test Today!

If you’re exhibiting symptoms and don’t know whether you have COVID or the flu, you need to get tested. Valley Medical and Wellness is a premier COVID testing site registered with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Department of Health and Human Services. Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve administered tens of thousands of tests to people who exhibit symptoms or have been exposed to the disease. We offer testing at our Burnsville, Minneapolis, and Woodbury locations.

Our RT-PCR testing measures the specific genetic material (RNA) found in both COVID and influenza viruses. Our drive-up testing allows you to stay in your car while one of our experts uses a swab, much like a Q-Tip, to take a sample from the inside of your nose. The swabbing takes just a few seconds, then the samples are analyzed in our own labs by a team of highly skilled technicians. We’ll contact you later the same day with your results.

PCR testing is the only way to be sure which virus you have, COVID or influenza. If you test positive for either, it’s easy to schedule a convenient telemedicine appointment where we can prescribe the proper treatment to help you feel better soon.


Michael Miller Michael Miller Michael Miller is a Business Process Writer at Valley Medical and Wellness. He's an established writer with more than 200 books and thousands of articles published over the past three decades. He writes on a variety of topics, from healthcare to technology to music. He is also a member of the Interstellar Foundation, dedicated to telling the story of humankind via NASA spacecraft traveling beyond the solar system.

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