Experts Explain The Difference Between Ebola, Flu Symptoms

Monday, October 27th 2014, 6:43 pm
By: News 9

Now that Oklahoma has its first confirmed cases of the flu in the state, health experts are getting one frequently asked question: How can you tell the difference between Ebola and flu symptoms?

Ebola can have initial symptoms, like fever, that seem identical to the flu, but there are some notable differences according to health experts.

“There are some big differences between Ebola symptoms and influenza,” said Cynthia Harry, an epidemiologist with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department.

Harry said it all depends on which symptoms are the most prominent. For the flu, the prominent symptoms are respiratory problems.

“Influenza has symptoms that are primarily respiratory. So that's cough, sore throat, congestion, which comes along with a fever,” Harry explained.

10/20/2014 Related Story: Ebola Scare: Students And Staff Allowed To Return To Moore Schools

Fever is also an Ebola symptom, but you have to look at all the other symptoms, which mostly involve gastrointestinal problems.

“Ebola, although there are fever-like symptoms, there's also higher rates of vomiting and diarrhea, as well as headaches and muscle aches,” Harry told News 9.

Another indicator is how the viruses are spread. Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids. It is not spread through the air. However, the flu is a respiratory spread. For example, you can catch it if someone with the flu is coughing near you.

“The general public is at very low risk of contracting Ebola,” Harry added.

Harry said bottom line: Ebola is not easy to get, but the flu is, especially if you are not vaccinated.

As flu season ramps up, hospitals fear an influx of patients with the flu fearing they have Ebola. Therefore, a big indicator of whether a virus is the flu or Ebola is whether the sick person has traveled to the Ebola hot zones in West Africa.