It’s Not Always COVID-19: Other Communicable Illnesses to Watch For

As the fall equinox nears and we’re still in the throes of the pandemic, it’s important to remember that autumn and winter are also cold and flu season. It’s not just COVID-19 that we need to be wary of—plenty of other transmittable illnesses await us as our children head back to school and we head back to offices. Summit Health Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. Victor Nwanguma, discusses some of the communicable diseases and preventive measures.

Common Communicable Illnesses

While the Delta variant is currently surging, not all respiratory symptoms turn out to be diagnosed as COVID-19. Rhinovirus, flu, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and other non-COVID coronaviruses are circulating as well,” says Dr. Nwanguma. Additionally, strep throat, mono (infectious mononucleosis), and bronchitis are all commonly diagnosed during this time of year.

Many of these viral and bacterial diseases may present with symptoms such as cough, runny nose, congestion, sore throat, headache, fatigue, body aches or elevated temperature, which are also commonly seen in those who have COVID-19. Without testing, it can be difficult to distinguish one from the other.

Some symptoms are more prevalent than others. With flu and COVID-19, weakness and fatigue are common. A sore throat and congestion may also occur. You can experience cough, shortness of breath, runny nose, and sinus pressure with COVID-19, flu, or viral bronchitis.

Get Tested

To rule out what you don’t have and find out what you do have, get tested. A simple nasal swab can detect most of the common respiratory viruses, including flu and Covid-19. A throat culture can detect strep throat, and a blood test can detect mono. Once your results are back, your doctor will decide on a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Prevention of communicable diseases

There are many ways to prevent the spread of communicable disease. Over the years, vaccinations have helped eliminate or greatly reduced communicable disease threats.

“Every eligible individual should stay up to date with their recommended immunizations,” says Dr. Nwanguma. Proper handwashing, especially before and after handling food and using the toilet, helps keep germs at bay.

Other important ways to slow or stop disease transmission are by ensuring the food we eat and water we drink is safe, avoiding people who are sick, and practicing safe sex.

In the midst of the flu season and the ongoing threat of COVID-19, it’s going to become quite challenging to differentiate between illnesses. The best course of action to take is to protect yourself against the known variants of influenza and COVID-19 by getting the flu and COVID-19 vaccines.