It is unlikely to misdiagnose flu as COVID-19. The flu cases have mainly dropped due to all the restrictions put in place and high vaccination rates.
CDC's Immunization Services Division (ISD) has developed a new Weekly National Influenza Vaccination Dashboard, an exploratory data product, to share preliminary, within-season, weekly influenza vaccination data and coverage estimates using existing and new data sources. From Oct. 1, 2019, the influenza burden estimates through April 4, 2020, shows 39,000,000 – 56,000,000 flu illnesses.
The Influenza testing across the U.S. may be higher than usual in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 101 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations between Oct. 1, 2020, and Dec. 26, 2020, were reported by FluSurv-NET sites. That number is lower than the numbers usually reported in the season than the figures seen at the relative point in time during the 2011-12 season.
The number of people getting sick with flu has reached record lows. It could be due to higher vaccination rates during the pandemic. As of late November 2020, over 188 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed, according to a new flu vaccination dashboard from the CDC. That's an increase from the 169 million doses sent out at a similar time in 2019 and 163 million doses distributed in 2018.
One Facebook user said that a doctor told their relative in New York that there is a possibility of any cold or flu appearing positive on a COVID test. The post does not elaborate on the test type. The two main types of tests are: (1) a swab or a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and (2) an antibody test. A swab test has been used to diagnose whether a person has COVID-19. Antibody tests can establish if someone has antibodies from other coronaviruses, but they are not being used to diagnose COVID-19.
Dr. Rob Shorten, Chair of Microbiology Committee, Association for Clinical Biochemistry & Laboratory Medicine, told Reuters that the tests, which work by detecting the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, are precise. These sequences' specific nature means that someone with flu or a common cold virus is doubtful to test positive for COVID-19.
By mid-December 2020, the Northern Hemisphere usually starts its annual cold and flu season. So far, even as the COVID-19 pandemic surges in dozens of countries, the levels of many common seasonal infections remain extremely low. The responses intended to fight the pandemic, from temporary lockdowns to mask-wearing, social distancing, enhanced personal hygiene, and reduced travel, has had a significant impact on other common respiratory illnesses, too.
The Southern Hemisphere has passed its winter season, and seasonal influenza hardly struck at all. Therefore, the flu activity remained low during 2020. Fewer flu cases from the CDC do not point or indicate flu being misdiagnosed as COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19 including symptoms, prevention and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organisation or your national healthcare authority.