ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- More attention has been given to COVID-19 during flu season over the past two years leaving some wondering what happened to the flu? Because COVID is more contagious than the flu there have been many more cases in New York.

Between the week ending Nov. 6 and the week ending Jan. 15, there were 1,932,499 more cases of COVID than flu reported according to the New York State Department of Health. Flu cases totaled 37,700 during that same period, meaning there were 52 times more cases of COVID. The number of COVID cases was also likely higher because people were using at-home tests.

On the surface, people with mild cases of COVID or the flu may show similar symptoms. Both viruses can cause a fever, muscle aches, sore throat, and tiredness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Therefore, testing is important to determine if someone has influenza (the virus that causes the flu) or COVID, but are the tests accurate?

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are used by laboratories to test for COVID-19. Whereas an antigen test is used by many companies that make at-home tests. What does that mean in terms of testing accuracy and could someone with the flu test positive for COVID?

“PCR tests are very specific and sensitive for the pathogen they are looking for. PCR tests are designed to specifically target those viruses,” Dr. Steven Hanks, chief clinical officer, and chief operating officer for St. Peter’s Health Partners said Friday. “They are developed to detect and amplify specific genetic sequences that are specific to the virus that is being screened (i.e., influenza or SARS), meaning flu could not cause a false positive on a COVID test.”

Antigen tests are designed to detect antigens produced by the body to fight COVID which would be different than the antigens produced to fight the flu. People in the initial stages of COVID could test negative but it’s because their bodies may not have built up enough antigens to be detected by at-home tests, according to UMass Chan Medical School.

However, someone can test positive for COVID and have the flu as well, said Dr. Hanks. This is called co-infection. A small number of people with COVID studied by Iranian researchers also had the flu. However, the researchers expressed concern about the risk of co-infection for people considered high risk for serious illness and said further studies were needed on the topic in general.

Fortunately, now that the holidays are past, the number of COVID cases has gone down significantly statewide. After peaking on Jan. 7, cases have fallen 90%. Sunday, Gov. Kathy Hochul reported 8,781 new cases since Saturday.