‘Flurona’: What it’s best to find out about simultaneous an infection with Covid and flu

At every stage of the pandemic, we’ve added new terms to our everyday vocabulary: coronavirus, Covid-19, social distancing, Delta, Omicron … the list goes on and on.

The latest international headline is “Flurona,” a term used to describe people infected with the coronavirus and the flu at the same time. Confirmed cases have surfaced in the US, Israel, Brazil, and elsewhere.

Wondering what it means to you? Here’s what you need to know.

‘Flurona’ is not really new

The term “flurona” may be new and catchy, but the phenomenon isn’t, as Raghu Adiga, chief medical officer at Liberty Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, pointed out in this Scientific American explainer. News reports that make it sound like a “nightmare” blow the whole situation off balance – and overlook the fact that it has happened before, Adiga said.

“The way this story was taken out of context is another example of the kind of internet-based misinformation that haunts all of us as we try to tackle the real crisis,” he wrote in the article.

When a pandemic with millions of new cases clashes with seasonal influenza every day, “in a world population largely unvaccinated against either Covid-19 or flu, it makes sense to find patients who may be infected by both viruses at the same time,” continued Adiga away. Healthcare providers can run diagnostic flu and / or Covid tests to see what you’ve got infected with.

And here, too, there have been documented (or suspected) cases of a Covid / flu co-infection since the beginning of the pandemic. We could see more of them now because the 2021 flu season was so harmless (likely due to bans, school closings, and widespread masking) and there are concerns that this year’s flu season could get a lot worse. We are, of course, also in the middle of an omicron surge that is driving falls across the country.

It can be serious, but experts say it’s not that common at the moment

While the recent spate of stories about “Flurona” is arguably exaggerated, medical experts consider it important to take both Covid and the flu very seriously now. Yes, the vast majority of people who get the flu or Covid are recovering. But there have also been more than 800,000 Covid-related deaths in the United States since the pandemic started and more than 150,000 in the UK, while the flu causes 12,000 to 52,000 US deaths and between 10,000 and 25,000 people each year in the UK.

Even though co-infections are nothing new, you should be aware of them. You can certainly put an extra strain on people’s immune systems and make you more likely to get sick, especially if you are elderly or immunocompromised, for example.

“It is true that your immune system is attacked when infected. As a result, your immune system is weakened. And so your ability to defend yourself against another infection is limited, ”said David Edwards, aerosol scientist, faculty member at Harvard University and inventor of FEND, a nasal mist that aims to trap and flush out tiny pathogens.

That said, your personal chances of being exposed to both viruses at the same time are pretty slim, especially if the people around you do their part and stay home when they have symptoms.

“The likelihood of being exposed to both at the same time is very low. It’s important for people to understand that when they hear the term “Flurona” it isn’t like there is this big, bad new combo viral infection that is going to overtake Omicron, “Edwards told HuffPost. “But it happens.”

Look out for typical COVID and flu symptoms

The typical symptoms of Covid-19 are the same as during the entire pandemic: fever, cough, chills, muscle aches, shortness of breath and / or loss of taste or smell. But milder symptoms such as a runny nose or headache are also possible. Also, some people are more likely to experience gastrointestinal symptoms than what people call more typical respiratory effects.

The symptoms of the flu are pretty similar, and as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes on their website, there is a lot of overlap. Again, watch out for cough, stuffy nose, fever, pain, fatigue, etc. With the flu, symptoms typically appear one to four days after exposure. For the coronavirus, the timeline is more like two to 14 days (with an average of around five days) – although there is increasing evidence that Omicron symptoms occur more quickly than with previous variants.

You can prevent Flurona by taking all the right measures we learned about during the pandemic

You really don’t have to reinvent the wheel to protect yourself against flurona.

“The most important best practices remain the flu vaccination, vaccination and booster against Covid if this is justified, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance from others, washing hands well, staying at home if you are sick and testing for the flu Covid in Illness, “said Matthew Kronman, assistant medical director for infection prevention at Seattle Children’s in Washington.

Many experts say now is a good time to upgrade to a KN95 or N95 mask if you haven’t already. Also, really be on the safe side, if you have any symptoms at all, even one. It is impossible for doctors to determine if you have a cough and runny nose because you have Omicron, because you catch the flu, because you have both, or if you are dealing with something else altogether – unless they test you.

So do your part to protect others. Stay home until you know what’s what and you are clear of the infection.

Experts are still learning about Covid-19. The information in this story is known or available at the time of publication, but the guidelines could change as scientists learn more about the virus. To stay up to date with health advice and cases in your area, visit gov.uk/coronavirus and nhs.uk.

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