Difference Between Coronavirus and Spanish Flu

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Dec 21, 2022, 18:33

Coronavirus and the Spanish Flu are the two major pandemics that the world has experienced. The main difference between Coronavirus and Spanish Flu is that the latter was more dangerous than Coronavirus, striking healthy young individuals and spreading in waves. Coronavirus and Spanish Flu also differ in their origin and the people that they affect the most.

While the Spanish Flu began in 1918 when the world was riddled with rebellion and colonial rule, Coronavirus emerged in late 2019 on a relatively peaceful planet with thriving trade and tourism that allowed it to transmit rapidly. We have shared more differences between Coronavirus and Spanish Flu here.

Coronavirus vs Spanish Flu - Origin, Symptoms

While there are many differences between Coronavirus and Spanish Flu, it is a fact that they are both deadly diseases that took millions of lives around the world. Spanish Flu, also known as Influenza, spread throughout the world in 1918, while Coronavirus, or Covid-19, affected the globe in 2019.

When we compare the origin and symptoms of both diseases, we can understand the difference between Coronavirus and Spanish Flu better. Hence, we have shared a detailed comparison of Covid and Influenza here.

Coronavirus and Spanish Flu - Comparison

Spanish Flu and Coronavirus are deadly diseased and both attack the respiratory systems. The outbreak of both diseases turned into a global pandemic. Here is the comparison of Coronavirus and Spanish Flu -

Spanish Flu


The 1918 Spanish Flu spread from a completely new virus that the world had never seen before.

Coronavirus also spread as a new virus that affected people rapidly.

Nobody was immune to it, and it was exceedingly contagious, spreading through respiratory droplets.

Coronavirus affects people with weakened immunity the most. While it can affect other people also, it can be deadly for weak and old people.

Its origin can be traced to Kansas, United States, in 1918.

Coronavirus originated in China in 2019 and travelled throughout the world.

Spanish Flu symptoms include sore through, chills, congestion, and body pain.

Coronavirus symptoms include a persistent dry cough, high fever, chills, and severe body pain.

Difference Between Coronavirus and Spanish Flu

Studying aspects like the incubation period, symptoms, and most affected people can help us understand the difference between Coronavirus and Spanish Flu better. We have shared all the major Coronavirus and Spanish Flu differences in the given table -



Spanish Flu

Incubation period

(Time taken for an infected person to develop symptoms)

Coronavirus has an incubation period of 2 to 14 days.

Spanish Flu has a shorter incubation period of 1 to 4 days.


Loss of smell and taste, respiratory problems, muscle pain, body ache and headache are the symptoms of Coronavirus.

Respiratory symptoms, muscle aches, body pain and headache are the symptoms of Spanish Flu. But people affected with Spanish Flu will not face loss of smell/ taste.

Serial interval

(Time between successive cases in a transmission chain)

Coronavirus has a shorter serial interval (3 days) than the Spanish Flu.

Spanish Flu has a longer serial interval of 5 to 6 days.

Shedding time

(Time taken by the virus to infect a host, reproduce, and release itself into the environment)

Coronavirus has a longer shedding time of 3 months. So, people affected with coronavirus are more likely to spread the virus than Spanish Flu patients.

Spanish Flu has a shorter shedding time of 2 to 7 days.

Most affected

Coronavirus targets adults and ages with medical complications. Surprisingly, Coronavirus affects very few children. Even if they fall sick, they show mild symptoms.

Spanish Flu affects children and healthy young adults.

Secondary infection

A fully recovered person might suffer from an average of two secondary infections in the case of Coronavirus.

In the case of Spanish Flu, recovery pneumonia follows the recovery in rare cases.

Name of the disease

Coronavirus is not linked to a geographic location - we do not call it the Wuhan virus.

It is linked to a geographic location- Spain. Nevertheless, the Spanish Flu did not originate in Spain. We link it with Spain as it was the first country to officially announce the presence of the virus.

Coronavirus vs Spanish Flu - How Long Did Spanish Flu Last?

Spanish Flu, like Coronavirus, showed little concern for hierarchy. The 1918 flu did not even spare King Alfonso XIII. Though both viruses have similar symptoms and modes of transmission, there is a significant difference between Coronavirus and Spanish Flu. Spanish Flu lasted for a period of 25 months. On the other hand, Coronavirus is still spreading throughout the world, although not with the same intensity.

COVID-19, unlike the Spanish Flu, has the potential to cause more severe sickness in some persons and symptoms may take a long time to appear. Also, the backdrop was much different a century ago - wars, colonialism, and a lack of advancement in medical sciences.

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FAQs on Difference between Coronavirus and Spanish Flu

Q.1. What is the difference between Coronavirus and Spanish Flu?

The main difference between Coronavirus and Spanish Flu is that though both have similar symptoms, genetic make-up, and modes of transmission, Spanish Flu, or the Influenza A Subtype H1N1 and the Coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 are from different viral families. These diseases also affect people differently.

Q2. How long did Spanish Flu last?

The Spanish Flu was first reported in Kansas, United States, and lasted for a period of 25 months. The flu turned out to be a global pandemic, claiming thousands of lives in different parts of the world, similar to the coronavirus pandemic.

Q.3. Is there any difference between Coronavirus and Spanish Flu?

Yes, one of the key differences between Coronavirus and Spanish Flu is that they affect different demographics. The majority of those who died during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic were young adults, with older people dying at a lower rate. COVID-19, on the other hand, primarily affects the elderly, with mortality rates nearing 20% in people over the age of 80.

Q.4. Which is more dangerous - Coronavirus or Spanish Flu?

Although both these diseases can be deadly, there is a difference between Coronavirus and Spanish Flu when it comes to mortality rates. The mortality rate is higher among Coronavirus-inflected people (3-5%) than those infected by Spanish Flu (0.5-1%).