Loss of Smell or Taste symptoms of COVID-19 Columbia University


What Do I Have? Recognizing Symptoms of COVID-19, the Flu, or the Common 

COVID-19, the illness caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is a respiratory virus, similar in many ways to influenza (the flu) and the common cold. As flu and cold viruses increase in prevalence during the fall and winter season, and as seasonal allergies remain active, it is important to recognize the symptoms that can distinguish each of these illnesses from one another.

Prompt recognition and identification of the symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, common cold and allergies will help ensure proper treatment and adherence to University protocols, and will help keep the Columbia community healthy.


Remember, diagnosis of COVID-19 or influenza can only be confirmed by testing. If you are experiencing symptoms of either, stay home, follow isolation and quarantine requirements, and obtain testing.

Symptoms May Include

 COVID-19 The Flu Common Cold 
Sudden Loss of Smell or Taste  
Shortness of Breath 
Sore Throat
Headache, Muscle Pain, or Body Aches 
Runny Nose (Sniffles) 
Vomiting or Diarrhea 

Symptom Onset

Flu symptoms generally appear 1-4 days post-exposure. COVID-19 symptoms most often appear within 5 days, but may be evident as soon as 2 days or as many as 14 days post-exposure.

Vaccine and Treatment

All personnel are strongly encouraged to receive a free flu vaccine. There is not yet a vaccine available for COVID-19. Personnel must practice non-pharmaceutical interventions to prevent exposure and transmission.

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