Testing necessary to differentiate COVID-19 from other illnesses, say doctors

As coronavirus spreads, the fact remains that the virus shares a lot of symptoms with other illnesses, so how can you tell which illness you have?

One local man with coronavirus type symptoms ended up having Lyme disease.

At Any Lab Test Now in Houston, testing was able to determine a Woodlands man had Lyme disease after he’d been bitten by a tick. The disease carries many similar symptoms to COVID-19.

“There’s a lot of similarities,” said George Partida, operations manager for eleven of Any Lab Test Now’s Houston-area locations. “Similarities are fever, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, body aches, vomiting.”

The similarity in symptoms of some diseases makes diagnosing those symptoms difficult.

“It’s very challenging,” said Prathit Kulkarni, MD specializing in infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine.

In the case of Lyme disease, there are some key differences.

“Lyme doesn’t have much in the way of the respiratory component—the initial form—and COVID is less likely to cause a rash,” said Kulkarni.

“Loss of taste is very common in COVID-19,” said Partida, adding that it is not common in Lyme disease.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, all the other viruses that have been getting people sick for years are still around--many of them carrying similar symptoms.

“For example, other coronaviruses cause common cold—not SARS-CoV-2 (a.k.a. COVID-19),” said Kulkarni. “There are other viruses like rhinovirus, like adenovirus, enterovirus. There’s a whole host of these that have technical names that have been around for decades which can cause respiratory infection.”

Doctors say testing is important to know what you have and how to treat, and when flu season rolls around, testing will likely be even more important.

“Comparing and contrasting COVID-19 and Influenza might be a little more challenging because the primary symptoms of Influenza are also fever, shortness of breath and cough, so testing for both when we get into flu season could potentially be very important,” said Kulkarni.