The name conjures up images of cheap horror flicks – think “Sharknado” – but the COVID double infection is real. More cases are likely. And it’s not as terrifying as flying sharks — especially for people who’ve been vaccinated against one or both.
Texas Children’s Hospital announced this week that tests confirmed a child had influenza A and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The hospital said the patient was not hospitalized and is recovering at home. No other details were mentioned.
“This is one confirmed case, and of course, we will be working with our colleagues across the country to see if there are more cases and whether we will see a distinct pattern in these cases,” said Dr. Jim Versalowicz, pathologist and co-leader of the COVID-19 Command Center. At the hospital, reporters on Monday.
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The announcement comes just days after Israel announced its first confirmed case of “Florona” in an unvaccinated pregnant woman at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, The Times of Israel reports.
Health experts expect to see more “Florona” amid a rapid rise in flu and coronavirus cases, the latter driven by the highly contagious Omicron formula. And this isn’t the first time health care providers have seen co-infections from influenza and COVID-19, as well as other viruses.
Texas Children’s Hospital was also the first children’s hospital in the United States to report co-infection with COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, in the summer. Versalovic said dozens of children with co-infections required hospitalization.
But there is no specific treatment or vaccine for RSV, so experts speculate that children with “flurona” may experience better outcomes.
“I expect to see a lot of co-infections (of influenza and COVID-19) in the future, but I don’t see anything to suggest that it makes COVID infection worse,” said Dr. Frank Esper, MD, a physician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. Children’s Infectious Diseases Center. “These are two viral pathogens for which we already have medications.”
In addition to life-saving vaccines to prevent severe disease, he said, health care providers are willing to treat the infection simultaneously with Tamiflu and remdesivir.
Experts say immunocompromised people are susceptible to this infection, but co-infection is more likely to occur in young children, because their immune system is still unfamiliar with many common viruses.
“The first predisposition to being infected with more than one virus at the same time is your age, and it really is children under five,” Esper said. “They all have virus outbreaks and you exchange them like trading cards.”
Esber said cold viruses make up the most common co-infections, while influenza-associated infections are observed less frequently.
“There are some pathogens that don’t like to dance with anyone, and influenza is one of them,” he said. “When the body gets infected[with the influenza virus]it really starts flooding the entire system with many immune components that prevent viral infection,” making it difficult for other pathogens to enter the body and cause disease.
Co-infection involving influenza may be rare of other viruses, but health experts still expect “Florona” cases to rise as the United States approaches peak flu activity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 43% of children between the ages of 6 months and 17 years were vaccinated against influenza as of December 4.
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Texas Children’s Hospital said it has diagnosed more than 90 cases of flu since Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, weekly COVID-19 cases doubled amid the spread of the omicron variant.
“Over the weekend, we broke previous records created during the August delta boost,” Versalowicz said. “In just two to three weeks, we’ve seen the massive impact of Omicron’s delta overrun.”
It’s still not clear if Florona causes more serious illness, but health experts don’t want to take any chances. They urge Americans to get vaccinated against both viruses as soon as possible.
The flu vaccine is available for children over 6 months of age, and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is available for children 5 years of age and older.
“Influenza vaccination is the best preventative measure against infection and the prevention of some of the serious complications associated with influenza,” said Dr. Greg Sylvester, chief medical officer of Seqirus, a New Jersey-based manufacturer of influenza vaccine. “The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and those around you from the virus.”
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