FLU symptoms could be masking signs of coronavirus, doctors have warned.
Research suggests that around one in five people with Covid-19 may also be infected with other respiratory viruses.
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The preliminary analysis from Stanford School of Medicine also found that one in 10 people who went to A&E and were diagnosed with a common respiratory virus also tested positive for coronavirus.
Nigam Shah, associate professor of medicine at the medical school, said: "Currently, if a patient tests positive for a different respiratory virus, we believe that they don't have Covid-19.
"However, given the co-infection rates we've observed in this sample, that is an incorrect assumption."
The team say that accurate and rapid testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is needed to identify those who are infected and slow the spread of the infection.
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They hope their findings, published on Medium, will help medical professionals understand that patients who show signs of a respiratory virus may also have coronavirus.
Dr Ian Brown, a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine who led the research, said: "Hospitals don't have unlimited access to Covid testing.
"In some cases, a patient with respiratory symptoms may first be tested for a non-Covid virus.
"If there is a diagnosis of influenza or rhinovirus, or other respiratory viruses, a hospital may discharge the patient without Covid testing, concluding that the alternative diagnosis is the reason for the symptoms."
Dr Brown and his colleagues analysed 562 people recently tested for Covid-19 at Stanford Health Care's Marc and Laura Andreessen Emergency Department.
They found that 49 of those people tested positive for infection with SARS-CoV-2.
Of the 562 people, 517 were also tested for the presence of other common respiratory viruses, such as influenza A and B, respiratory syncytial virus, rhinovirus, adenovirus and several types of pneumonia.
The research showed that 127 received a positive result for one of these other respiratory viruses.
Of the people tested for both SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses, 11 people —or about 22 per cent of the coronavirus cases — were found to be co-infected with both kinds of viruses.
It comes as experts say that a loss of taste and smell could be the first sign of coronavirus – and could mean you caught the illness just hours before.
An increasing number of people are reporting the loss of the two senses, despite it not being a major symptom confirmed by Public Health England.
Currently, the only two official symptoms people are suppose to self-isolate for are if they have a new, continuous cough or a high temperature.
Anyone with either symptom must then stay at home for seven days, and the temperature is back to normal.
Doctors are now warning that suddenly being unable to taste or smell anything could be one of the first signs of the virus.
British Rhinological Society President Claire Hopkins said: “I have personally seen four patients this week, all under 40, and otherwise asymptomatic except for the recent onset of anosmia — I usually see roughly no more than one a month.
“I think these patients may be some of the hitherto hidden carriers that have facilitated the rapid spread of Covid-19.
“Unfortunately, these patients do not meet current criteria for testing or self isolation.”
Dr Tony Narula, a past president of ENT UK, said that people will often get both senses back within four to six weeks.
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