MIAMI — Trying to distinguish between flu and the novel coronavirus is not easy, according to Miami physician Clark Osborn.

“There is only one symptom that really is consistent or telltale for the coronavirus is the abrupt loss of the sense of taste or smell,” he said.

Osborn said those who have coronavirus, about 85% of them that are symptomatic will have that.

Fever, cough and diarrhea, are common between the two, Osborn said.

“Even though the flu vaccine is 50 to 60% effective, it will limit the number of times we have to make that decision about what they have,” Osborn said. “We have medications we can treat the flu with, but we have to start within 48 hours for it to be effective. With coronavirus, they are working on things, but there isn’t anything documented yet.”

The flu season, which began in October, usually plateaus by late February or early March.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control recommend everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot.

Prevention is the best medicine for both illnesses and the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands frequently.

Many of the best methods for sidestepping the common cold and the flu are the same: frequent hand washing, keep the immune system in top working order by supporting it with vitamin C and avoid cramped indoor environments full of sick people.

Osborn is a firm believer that masks do make a difference in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“Cities where they have a mask mandate, the rate of infection goes way down,” he said. “We know that.”

Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is recommending that masks be worn at Thanksgiving celebrations.

The U.S. set a single-day record with more than 160,000 COVID cases Thursday.

Flu shots are available from primary care physicians, at the Ottawa County Health Department — and most area pharmacies are making shots available.