5 Lethal Diseases You Would Totally Mistake For The Flu

Published November 23, 2014
Updated May 6, 2020

It's flu season. Time to convince yourself that you've been exposed to SARS and anthrax.

Flu season is here, and half the fun of getting sick is calling out from work and imagining how sad everybody would be at your funeral if you died. The fun stops, however, when those “flu-like symptoms” turn out to be just that—flu-like, rather than influenza itself. You see, it isn’t really the virus that’s causing all of the symptoms of “the flu,” but your own immune system going bananas in an effort to kill it.

Unfortunately, your immune system goes bananas in almost the same way regardless of what’s trying to kill you, so quite a few life-threatening illnesses can easily pass through an acute phase (when they might still be treatable) and be written off as a touch of the flu.

So, this flu season, in a continuing effort to turn you into a paranoid basket case who’s afraid to go outdoors, here are five diseases that feel just like the flu, but that will totally kill you if you ignore them.



Source: 103FM

Oh yeah, AIDS is the first one on the list. HIV infection usually passes through an acute phase shortly after exposure and produces noticeable symptoms. Here’s a fun experiment—compare this list of flu symptoms with another list of symptoms that signal the onset of HIV infection. One of them is taken verbatim from flu.gov, and the other is from aids.gov. See if you can tell the difference:

  • A 100-degree or higher fever
  • A cough and/or sore throat
  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Headaches and/or body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea


  • Fever
  • Swollen glands
  • Sore throat
  • Rash
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle and joint aches and pains
  • Headache

There. That clears things up marvelously.

If you develop any of these symptoms, you should either stay home, drink plenty of fluids, and eat chicken soup, or you should rush to the clinic and ask for prophylactic doses of the cocktail in an effort to kill off the virus before it progresses to full-blown AIDS. Glad we could help with that.

Richard Stockton
Richard Stockton is a freelance science and technology writer from Sacramento, California.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Stockton, Richard. "5 Lethal Diseases You Would Totally Mistake For The Flu." AllThatsInteresting.com, November 23, 2014, https://allthatsinteresting.com/lethal-diseases-flu. Accessed May 25, 2024.