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Curious Texas: What are the differences in symptoms of the flu, COVID-19 and West Nile virus?

Anyone who may be experiencing such problems should get a proper diagnosis from a doctor.

When summer temperatures begin to climb, North Texas’ county health departments are usually preparing for the start of the West Nile virus season. In Dallas County, the first positive West Nile mosquito sample for the 2020 season was found in April in Cedar Hill.

However, not every Texas summer includes a global pandemic. That’s why a reader reached out to Curious Texas to ask: What is the difference in symptoms of West Nile, COVID-19 and the flu?

The three viruses have some overlapping symptoms, so anyone who is experiencing such problems should visit a doctor to get a proper diagnosis.

The Dallas County Health and Human Services stopped influenza surveillance reports the week of March 28, indicating that the flu season had come to an end. According to the county, the flu surveillance reports typically start in October and end in about mid-April.

Even though the county is not monitoring for the flu, anyone who experiences symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat or runny or stuffy nose should see a doctor.

The bigger problem this time of year is figuring out the difference between the West Nile virus and COVID-19.

West Nile, a disease spread through infected mosquitoes, causes no problems for most people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But people who do show symptoms may experience a fever, headache, aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea and a rash.

Serious infections can cause neck stiffness, confusion and high fever, and these symptoms may last several weeks. In rare cases, the West Nile virus can be deadly. Last year no deaths in Dallas County were blamed on the virus.

West Nile is diagnosed through a blood test, and anyone who may have the virus should see a health-care provider, the county said on its website.

COVID-19 can cause a wide range of symptoms that can be mild or severe, the CDC says. Symptoms typically appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus, which is frequently transmitted through respiratory droplets.

Symptoms include fever, dry cough, shortness of breath and fatigue. Other symptoms may include a headache, a loss of the sense of taste or smell, a sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea and diarrhea. Dangerous cases can include symptoms such as shortness of breath, chills and aches, according to the CDC, and may lead to pneumonia.

Anyone who may be experiencing these symptoms should see a medical professional. Nasal and saliva tests are available for people with and without insurance.

Nataly Keomoungkhoun, Engagement reporter. Nataly is the lead writer on Curious Texas. She is a D-FW native with a B.A. in emerging media and communication from the University of Texas at Dallas and an M.S. in journalism from the University of Southern California. She also likes art, a lot.

nataly.keomoungkhoun@dallasnews.com @natalykeo
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