2013 Flu vs. Rotavirus, Norovirus: Stomach Flu and Influenza Differences Explained

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Positive influenza tests during the 2012/2013 flu season. Image courtesy of the CDC.

Positive influenza tests during the 2012/2013 flu season. Image courtesy of the CDC.

The 2012/2013 flu season has been one for the record books. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that this is the worst flu season in a decade, and it has now even reached epidemic proportions. You probably know someone who has gotten sick this winter with the flu. However, many people get confused and think the stomach bug that’s also going around this winter is the same as influenza. In actuality, they are totally different viruses.

Stomach Flu versus Influenza

You may hear it often, “oh I have the flu!” When you ask about your friend or loved one’s symptoms they tell you that they have vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, and/or chills. All symptoms of the ‘stomach flu,’ also known as viral gastroenteritis. There are two main types of viruses that are responsible for making you feel miserable – the norovirus and the rotavirus. The norovirus is the most common virus in adults, where the rotavirus is most common in young children and infants. Both viruses are contagious and you will typically feel better within a few days. However, even when you feel better, you may still be contagious so it’s best to stay home and rest for at least three days if you’re an adult. Children are contagious even before they develop symptoms and can be contagious up to two weeks.

Influenza versus Common Cold

Do you have some symptoms? It may just be a severe cold. Despite the flu and the common cold both being respiratory illnesses, they are caused by two different viruses. It can be very difficult to tell the difference between a cold and the flu, however, as their symptoms are very similar. When you have a cold you may have a runny or stuffy nose, cough, sore throat, headache, and/or body aches.

When you have the flu you can have these exact same symptoms; however, symptoms will be more severe and include extreme fatigue, fever, and a dry cough. Unfortunately there isn’t a cure for the common cold. Resting, drinking lots of water, taking zinc and extra vitamin C, and yes, even eating some of mom’s chicken noodle soup can help ease the symptoms of the cold. You will feel better in a few days and the cold will go away within about a week.

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