vs. Common Cold

Testing for Omicron COVID vs. Flu vs. Common Cold

All of the above are upper respiratory infections currently circulating in San Diego County and they have overlapping symptoms. If you have a fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, you could have one infection or a combination of Omicron and the flu. In Del Mar the case rate for Omicron infection is peaking. You are thus more likely to have COVID than the flu on a statistical basis with COVID cases almost doubling over the past two weeks. Omicron infection, though at least 4 times more transmissible than prior variants, tends to be mild in most fully vaccinated individuals, but you are still infectious for others, some of whom may be unvaccinated or immunocompromised and have serious or fatal disease.


There are tests that can help you determine which infection you have. If you have symptoms a home COVID antigen test (like the Abbott Binax or Quidel Quick-Vue) can confirm a positive COVID infection with high accuracy.


If you do not have symptoms, the tests are about 85% accurate. After you have been exposed to someone with COVID and do not have symptoms, wait 2-3 days before testing because it takes that long for the virus to be detectable.


The definitive test for COVID is based on amplifying the viral genetic material by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This requires a physician’s referral and the results of the PCR test from a qualified laboratory can take 2-3 days during which you should isolate and wear a mask. For a referral contact the Perlman Clinic at UCSD.


If your test result is positive from either the antigen or PCR test, you should isolate for at least 5 days and wear a mask for 10 days according to current CDC guidelines. Everyone (including the fully vaccinated) is encouraged to wear a well-fitting KN95 mask when in any public setting with individuals outside your immediate household.


Stay calm, stay safe, and get booster shots if you haven’t already.