The key difference between coronavirus and influenza is that coronavirus is positive-sense single-stranded RNA virus that causes illnesses ranging from common cold and pneumonia to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) while influenza virus is a negative-sense single-stranded RNA virus that causes seasonal flu epidemics each year.
Viruses are infectious agents. They cause diseases in almost all types of organisms. They are obligate parasites that replicate inside a specific host organism. Coronavirus and influenzavirus are two types of viruses. They are RNA viruses that are enveloped. Both attack respiratory system of humans and show similar symptoms. However, coronavirus infection is more deadly than the influenza virus infection. Moreover, there is a vaccine for influenza infection while there is no vaccine for coronavirus yet.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Coronavirus
3. What is Influenza
4. Similarities Between Coronavirus and Influenza
5. Side by Side Comparison – Coronavirus vs Influenza in Tabular Form
What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a large family of enveloped viruses with helical-shaped nucleocapsids. The name ‘corona’ was given to this virus family as they have crown-like projections on their surface. These viruses infect the respiratory tract of mammals. Coronaviruses cause illnesses ranging from common cold and pneumonia to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). They can also affect the gut of mammals. The common symptoms of coronavirus infection are a runny nose, cough, sore throat, and possibly a headache. People of all ages are susceptible to this virus.
There are different types of coronavirus. Generally, coronavirus can be transmitted from animals to humans. When people have weakened immune systems, this virus spreads from person to person through droplets carrying the virus. Therefore, touching or shaking hands with an infected person, making contact with the objects having the virus, etc. can cause the spread of the virus. Therefore, in order to prevent the spreading of this virus, it is necessary to take precautions such as wearing surgical face masks, washing your hands using soap for at least 20 seconds, avoiding close contact with infected people, etc.
What is Influenza?
Influenza virus (commonly called flu virus) is a single-stranded RNA virus that belongs to the viral family Orthomyxoviridae. It causes an infectious disease called influenza in vertebrates. The common symptoms of influenza infection include high fever, runny nose, sore throat, muscle and joint pain, headache, coughing, and feeling of tiredness.
The virus spread through the air from coughing and sneezing. It can also be spread by touching the objects contaminated by the virus and then touching the nose, mouth and eyes. The disease appears two days after exposure to influenza virus. Then it can last for less than a week. In most people, the infection resolves itself. But in certain people, especially in immunocompromised people, young children aged below 5, and adults aged above 65, it can last for several weeks and can cause complications.
There are four types of influenza viruses as Influenzavirus A, Influenzavirus B, Influenzavirus C, and Influenzavirus D. Among the four types, only three types infect humans. Influenzavirus A is the most virulent human pathogen which causes H1N1, H2N2, etc. The infection can be prevented by frequent hand washing, wearing masks and vaccination.
What are the Similarities Between Coronavirus and Influenza?
- Both coronavirus and influenza are single-stranded RNA viruses.
- They are enveloped viruses.
- They attack the respiratory system of humans.
- Both can cause mild to severe diseases including fevers, tiredness, coughing and pneumonia.
- Their infections spread through the air and by contact.
What is the Difference Between Coronavirus and Influenza?
Coronavirus is a positive-sense single-stranded RNA virus which causes illnesses ranging from common cold and pneumonia to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). In contrast, influenza virus is a negative-sense, single-stranded RNA virus which causes seasonal flu epidemics each year. So, this is the key difference between coronavirus and influenza. Moreover, coronavirus spread slowly while the influenza virus spreads rapidly than the coronavirus. Furthermore, coronavirus infections are more deadly than influenza virus infections. Most importantly, there is no vaccine for coronavirus yet while there is a vaccine for the influenza virus.
The below info-graphic summarizes the difference between coronavirus and influenza.
Summary – Coronavirus vs Influenza
Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from common cold and pneumonia to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). On the other hand, the influenza virus is another type of virus that causes seasonal flu epidemics each year. Both types are ssRNA viruses which are enveloped. Both cause infections in the respiratory system of humans. Influenza infections spread rapidly while coronavirus spreads slowly. However, coronavirus infections show a higher mortality rate than influenza virus infections. So, this is the summary of the difference between coronavirus and influenza.
1. Denison, Mark R, et al. “Coronaviruses: an RNA Proofreading Machine Regulates Replication Fidelity and Diversity.” RNA Biology, Landes Bioscience, 2011, .
2. “Influenza (Seasonal).” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, .
3. “Types of Influenza Viruses.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 Nov. 2019, .
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2. “EM of influenza virus” By Cynthia GoldsmithContent Providers(s): CDC/ Dr. Terrence Tumpey – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library (PHIL) (Public Domain) via