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How to Tell if You Have COVID-19 or the Flu

While we are STILL in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also in the midst of flu (influenza) season. The flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, with similar symptoms, and it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. To help discern between these two illnesses, as well as between regular cold and allergy symptoms, the National Institutes of Health (NIH – part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) published a helpful article to help distinguish which is which. The end of the online article includes a table that clearly delineates the specific symptoms of each condition.

Screening Patients and Employees

Dental offices should continue to screen both patients prior to dental visits and dental healthcare personnel (DHCP) before each work shift for fever and respiratory symptoms. In California, to be conditionally-exempt from Cal/OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Disease Standard, dental offices are required to screen patients for acute respiratory illness at check-in. Patient treatment should be deferred if patients are symptomatic, and DHCP should be instructed to stay home if they are exhibiting symptoms. Additionally, those who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate according to CDC guidelines or more restrictive state guidelines as applicable.


To prevent flu and COVID-19 infections, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends vaccinations against the diseases for eligible individuals, especially healthcare personnel. CDC has extensive information and resources about both seasonal influenza and COVID-19.

Vaccinations in California…

Annual Flu shot: There are no state requirements that compel DHCP to accept the flu vaccine. However, some California local health jurisdictions have mandated that DHCP working in facilities in their jurisdictions receive the flu vaccine, unless they have a medical contraindication. Refer to your local public health department for specific information on local flu vaccine mandates.

COVID-19 Vaccination: Specific to COVID-19, in California, dental employees must be either vaccinated against COVID-19 (not including booster shot) or undergo weekly testing for COVID-19. Additionally, some California local jurisdictions have more stringent COVID-19 vaccination requirements. Refer to your local public health department for specific information on local COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Since 1992, OSHA Review, Inc. has provided dental professionals with comprehensive programs to support regulatory compliance and infection control. We are a registered continuing education provider in the state of California, specializing in Dental Practice Act, infection control, and OSHA training.

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