With the introduction of the Omicron variant, the world is returning to the lifestyle established during the earliest days of the pandemic: restaurant shutdowns, mask mandates, and now, vaccine requirements for essential workers. Now, at the height of flu season, we’re seeing instances of double COVID-19 and influenza diagnoses, which has been dubbed ‘flurona.’
Though it has not been identified as another strain or variant of the coronavirus, officials do encourage taking the same measures as you normally would to protect against COVID.
Co-infection isn’t new — a 2020 study conducted in Wuhan, China found that 12% of a select number of COVID patients also had the flu. In fact, it not uncommon to have multiple viruses at once, since the weakening of your immune system makes you more susceptible to illness.
Projections were also made about simultaneous COVID and flu infections in 2019 study. In research published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information as reported by Forbes, it was revealed “as many as 70% of patients hospitalized with flu symptoms may test positive for more than one virus.” Dr. Adrian Burrowes, a family medicine physician told CNN, “I do believe you’re going to see [co-infection] with flu and coronavirus. And I do believe you’re going to see a higher rate of mortality as a result of that.”
Reported by CBSLA, the first case of flurona was diagnosed in Los Angeles at the COVID-19 testing center at the Getty Center. The anonymous patient, who has been identified as a teenaged boy, was experiencing mild symptoms and tested positive for both influenza and COVID after a family trip to Cabo San Lucas. However, the patient was the only member experiencing symptoms and was the only one in his family to test positive for both viruses. Unfortunately, one of his parents has tested positive for COVID.
During the interview, Dr. Burrowes also mentioned the detriment of being infected with both COVID and the flu at the same time, describing it as “catastrophic to your immune system.” Flu diagnoses often surge during the winter seasons as a result of inclement humidity conditions and inconsistent temperature drops.
Double infection is continuing internationally as well. Flurona was first reported in Israel after an unvaccinated pregnant woman with mild symptoms was diagnosed according to the Times of Israel. This was confirmed Tuesday, January 4 by the country’s Ministry of Health to CNN. “This is the first mother to be diagnosed with influenza and corona in Beilinson,” Arnon Wiznitzer, director of the Beilinson Women’s Department, said in an official statement referring to Beilinson hospital in Petah Tikva. “We treated her with a drug combination that targets both corona and flu.”
Nadav Davidovitch, a member of the Israeli National Advisory Committee on Covid-19, additionally told CNN “there is now both very high influenza activity and very high Covid activity, there is the option that someone will be infected with both.” He continued, “I don’t think this is going to be a common situation, but that’s something to consider. It’s interesting that after you have a year with a very, very low or not at all influenza activity, the next year because people were less exposed, it makes them more vulnerable.”
Other cases of flurona have reportedly surfaced in Florida and Texas, and have been mainly identified in teenagers and children. COVID-19 and flu symptoms are said to overlap, including fever, fatigue, runny nose, muscle ache, sore throat, and shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and mentioned by Steven Berzan, the operations chief of 911 COVID Testing. Additionally, Berzan noted that while the detection of flurona should not be cause for alarm, it should serve as a reminder to always wear a mask, wash hands your hands frequently, and stay home when sick to avoid infecting others.
While COVID-19 vaccinations are highly encouraged by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention against coronavirus infection, Forbes reported that “approximately 30% of people 18 and over in the U.S. do not plan to receive a flu shot, according to CDC survey data collected in December 2021.” For more information about COVID-19 updates, head to the official CDC website.