Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Do You Have COVID-19? Influenza? Or is it RSV? Here’s What to Look For

Image of Military personnel preparing a COVID-19 test sample for processing. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cody Emery, 30th Medical Group medical lab technician, prepares a COVID-19 test sample for processing April 8, 2021, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California (Photo by: Michael Peterson, Space Launch Delta 30 ).

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus

Are you or a loved one not feeling well? Feverish? Starting to cough?

It's hard to know what it is. Is it COVID-19? The seasonal flu? Or is it respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV?

All three have similar symptoms, with fever being the most common. If you want to know for sure, you can check with your health care provider. These viruses could become severe in a short span of time, so starting on the right treatment can be important.

Below is a rundown of virus symptoms and potential risks.

COVID-19 Symptoms

The good news about COVID-19 vaccines is they are effective in reducing the chances of severe disease, hospitalization, and death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, advises that getting a COVID-19 vaccine and a booster shot when eligible are the best tools to protect you and your family against COVID-19.

People with COVID-19 report a wide range of symptoms that may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms are likely to include fever, cough, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, and possibly a temporary loss of smell and taste. The CDC published a full list of potential COVID-19 symptoms.

"COVID-19 infection usually starts in our head. It later affects our lungs and the rest of our body," said Dr. David Hrncir, medical director, Central Vaccine Safety Hub, Defense Health Agency-Immunization Healthcare Division.

Preliminary research has shown that the Omicron variant does not spread into the lungs as aggressively as the Delta variant, which was dominant in the United States until Omicron emerged.

People who have received COVID-19 vaccines can still experience COVID-19 infections that may have symptoms similar to the common cold or flu. Patients might need testing to help confirm a diagnosis.

To help you evaluate your symptoms, the CDC has a self-tracker tool that asks demographic questions and whether you have "life-threatening symptoms that may require urgent care."

Influenza Symptoms

Influenza - better known as the flu - is also circulating. The CDC warns that the flu usually comes on suddenly, and can be more dangerous than a common cold.

Military personnel holding the flu vaccine
Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), received their influenza vaccinations Nov. 8, 2021, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Medics assigned to HHBN administered shots to protect against the virus (Photo by: Army Sgt. Tanis Kilgore).

The flu virus can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death, even during mild flu seasons. Flu activity was unusually low last winter in the United States and globally, resulting in an estimated 22,000 U.S. deaths. That compares to 52,000 U.S. deaths during the 2018-2019 flu season, the last year for full reporting.

People who have the flu typically have some or all of the symptoms that the CDC lists on its site, including fever, cough, sore throat, and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, although this is more common in children than adults.

The simultaneous surge of flu and COVID-19 cases nationwide is another important reason to get a flu vaccine to protect you. It is possible to get both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which would increase the risk of severe illness.

"Decreasing the impact of influenza with your annual flu vaccine lessens the risk of having a co-infection of several viruses with all the unique symptoms from each viral infection impacting you at the same time," Hrncir said.

Vaccination for the flu is available at military medical treatment facilities, clinics, and at commercial pharmacies and doctors' offices.

People who are at a higher risk of flu complications include children, those over 65, and those with compromised immune systems. There are certain therapeutics that may help these risk groups.

CDC has an influenza web page that provides information on current trends in the disease.

Is It RSV?

A third threat this winter is the respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV, which is a mostly seasonal contagious respiratory virus. It most frequently afflicts premature infants, and children under two years old with chronic heart or lung disease.

RSV can affect adults as well, especially those 65 older and those with compromised immune systems.

Fever is one of RSV's primary symptoms, along with runny nose, cough and a decrease in appetite. However, more serious symptoms of RSV like difficult or rapid breathing may require hospitalization. Watch out for these symptoms and seek medical care immediately.

Mild RSV typically resolves on its own. There is no vaccine to prevent RSV or specific medication to treat this virus. Recommended home treatments for children who show signs of RSV include fever reduction with over-the-counter medication; conservative nasal suctioning; and offering plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

Otherwise healthy adults who get infected with RSV usually have mild or no symptoms. Symptoms are typically consistent with an upper respiratory tract infection. The disease usually lasts less than five days, according to the CDC.

During the winter cold and flu season, make sure you review the CDC's public health care precautions to take good care of yourself and your loved ones.

You also may be interested in...

This is my Why

Article Around MHS
12/30/2021
Air Force Senior Airman Marcus Bullock poses for a photo after receiving his COVID-19 vaccination

Air Force Senior Airman Marcus Bullock stated his reason for getting the vaccine was to help his mother and son be able to have a play date again.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus

Development of WRAIR’s Pan-Coronavirus Vaccine Shows Promise

Article
12/28/2021
A vial of spike ferritin nanoparticle WRAIR's COVID-19 vaccine

Series of preclinical studies supports the Army’s pan-coronavirus vaccine development strategy

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Immunization Experts are Central to COVID-19 Vaccine Program

Article
12/20/2021
Medical director at Fort Riley, Kansas receives a COVID-19 vaccination In his left arm from a tech in personal protective equipment.

Immunization Health Division at forefront of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Military Health System Marks 1-Year Anniversary for COVID Vaccinations

Article
12/14/2021
FEmale Marine gets COVID 19 vaccination in left  arm at Camp LeJeune in December 2020

More than 6.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered a year after first shots within MHS.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

So others may breathe - Navy Medicine Respiratory Therapist cares for COVID casualties

Article Around MHS
12/13/2021
Military Health personnel posing for a picture

Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Tessa Hazard, a respiratory therapist, recently deployed to Alabama as a member of a COVID-19 response team.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Flu Vaccination Rates are Running High Across the Military This Year

Article
12/8/2021
Image of a woman giving someone an injection on the arm.

Rates of flu vaccination among service members are significantly higher than in previous years.

Recommended Content:

Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Toolkit | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Immunizations | Influenza, Northern Hemisphere

Army Public Health Center provides update on Long COVID risks

Article Around MHS
12/1/2021
COVID19 Symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

JTF Coyote begins pediatric COVID-19 clinics as adult booster vaccination numbers increase

Article Around MHS
11/23/2021
Military health personnel giving the COVID-19 vaccine

The Vermont National Guard now supports the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic with vaccinations for youth in the 5 to 11 age group and booster clinics for the general adult population.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus

MHS Reaches 6 Million Doses of Vaccine Against COVID

Article
11/10/2021
Airmen of the 139th Airlift Wing, Missouri Air National Guard, receive COVID-19 immunizations as a part of the federal mandate at Rosecrans Air National Guard Base, St. Joseph, Missouri, Oct. 2, 2021. The 139th Medical Group oversees the operation. .

Military passes 6 million mark for COVID-19 shots administered across the Military Health System.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Information for Military Treatment Facility Directors

COVID 19 Vaccine Is Now Available for Children 5 to 11

Article
11/9/2021
5-year-old girl in mask reads a book by herself

COVID-19 vaccines for 5-11 year olds are ready now through MHS

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

Vaccine for Children TLDR

Infographic
11/4/2021
Vaccine for Children TLDR

Vaccination is our best defense against the spread of COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Vaccines for Children

Vax Facts for Children

Infographic
11/4/2021
Vax Facts for Children

Should Young Children Get the COVID-19 Vaccine? Yes. The CDC recommends that children ages 5-11 receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 pediatric vaccine.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Vaccines for Children

DHA-Policy Memorandum 21-004: Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination Attestation, Screening Testing, and Vaccination Verification

Policy

This memorandum provides guidance on the implementation of vaccination, attestation, and testing requirements in accordance with the References listed in Attachment 1 to reduce the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.

TRICARE Flu Vaccine PSA

Video
11/3/2021
TRICARE Flu Vaccine PSA

Flu season is here, and it’s more important than ever to get your flu shot. Especially if you’re very young, very old, or pregnant. Protect yourself, your family, and your community by getting your flu shot today.

Recommended Content:

Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Toolkit | Immunizations | Get the Flu Vaccine

Pregnancy Health Alert: COVID-19 Vaccine is Strongly Recommended

Article
10/20/2021
Pregnant women gets the COVID-19 vaccine

Get vaccinated for COVID-19 if you’re pregnant or trying, DOD and CDC and advise.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Women's Health
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 46 - 60 Page 4 of 39
Refine your search
Last Updated: January 24, 2022

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.