‘Flurona’ — COVID and flu at the same time — cases are rising. Here’s what you need to know

The combination of COVID and influenza can be difficult to detect due to similar symptoms.

Sarah Teo / CNET

For the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites.

During the 2020-2021 flu season, COVID-19 restrictions and widespread mask use, combined with the annual flu shot, led to an unprecedented drop in annual flu cases — and helped largely prevent an “epidemic” of infection with the two viruses.

The situation looks a lot different this year, as the current flu vaccine appears to be incompatible with the dominant flu strain. “From our lab studies, it looks like a huge mismatch,” University of Pennsylvania microbiologist Scott Hensley told CNN last month.

A less effective flu vaccine, combined with lifting of lockdowns and mask mandates, could push 2021-2022 into the most common flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when millions of Americans contract the flu and tens of thousands die from it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 1,825 people were hospitalized with influenza for the week ending January 1, 2022. Injured In the entire 2020-2021 flu season.

Healthcare professionals around the world are beginning to report cases of patients with COVID-19 and influenza simultaneously, a phenomenon dubbed “flurona” that could bring additional risks for those with underlying health problems.

After Israel reported its first case of the flu on January 2, an unvaccinated teenage girl was reported in Los Angeles on January 5, according to CBS Los Angeles. Since then, additional cases have appeared in Texas, Kansas, Mississippi, and North Carolina.

“For generally healthy people, this combination can cause illness that keeps them home and in bed for a while, and they feel very bad,” Dr. Nancy Jane, vice president and director of quality for Kaiser Permanente Southern California, told The Orange County Register. “For people with high-risk medical conditions such as diabetes, heart or lung disease, the result can be admission to the intensive care unit and possibly death.”

This is the reason to get the flu shot and the COVID vaccine (and a COVID booster) Important: According to the record, “Florona” incidents have also been reported in Hungary, Brazil, the Philippines and China.

Having both respiratory illnesses at the same time can be “disastrous for your immune system,” Dr. Adrian Burroughs, professor of family medicine at the University of Central Florida, told CNN in September.

Read on for practical guidance on getting a flu shot. For more, here’s what Flu vaccine side effects You may encounter and why epidemiologists suggest taking both COVID-19 Vaccine and Flu Vaccine.

What do you know about the effectiveness of the flu vaccine this year?

Vaccine makers keep an eye on the flu strains that are currently in circulation and predict which ones are most likely to become prevalent during the upcoming flu season. Then they produce a vaccine — the flu shot — using three or sometimes four potential contenders.

Flu vaccine efficacy can fluctuate greatly – from 19% in the 2014-2015 season to 60% in 2010-2011.

Last year, when about half of adults and children in the United States got the flu shot, the vaccine was 39% effective at preventing infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Combined with the steps the United States has taken to check the spread of COVID-19, the number of influenza cases reported during the 2020-2021 season was very low and appears to be a typo: only 2,038, compared to the 38 million cases reported in the 2019-20 season.

This year, due to this incredibly mild season, vaccine makers had less information to work with. So they created a vaccine with four potential types, known as the quadrivalent flu vaccine, to increase the chances of nailing the dominant strain this year.

“There was enough data to make a good educational guess,” said LJ Tan, chief strategy officer for the Immunization Action Alliance, in October. At the time, Tan said experts were confident we “get it right”.

But recent research suggests it was so far removed from reality that a mutated form of the influenza A H3N2 variant, called 2a2, became the dominant strain.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of influenza strains detected this season so far are A (H3N2), and they mostly occur in children and young adults between the ages of 5 and 24, however, the infection rate is among adults 25 years old. increase.

In November, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported a rapid increase in the H3N2 mutant strain at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, with 745 laboratory-confirmed cases between October 6 and November 19.

If it’s a bad match, should I bother to get a flu shot this year?

definitely. Experts recommend the flu shot for anyone six months or older, and even a mismatched vaccine can significantly reduce the severity of the flu in sufferers: According to the CDC, getting vaccinated against the flu can reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor 40-60 %.

“Studies clearly show that seasonal influenza vaccines consistently prevent hospitalizations and deaths even in years when there is a significant antigenic mismatch,” the authors wrote in the preprint report.

When should I get the flu shot?

The short answer is: now. In the Northern Hemisphere, flu season usually runs from October to May. But the influenza virus is less concerned with the calendar and more concerned with spreading as widely as possible. Experts warn that this year’s timing may be less predictable, given last year’s mild flu season and our changing behaviors around the COVID-19 pandemic.

Don’t try to schedule your flu shot when you get the flu. To be ready, experts recommend, get the shot as soon as possible.

“We have a normal time when we’d expect to have the flu,” Peter Chen Hong, MD, a physician and professor in the Department of Health for Infectious Diseases at the University of California, San Francisco, told CNET. “But this year, it may be unusual or last longer, so that’s what people need to prepare for.”

A similar shift in the timing of seasonal virus infection occurred this summer, Chen Hong said, when the United States and Japan experienced a surge in respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, in schoolchildren. That’s because the students were learning remotely the previous winter – when RSV infection naturally occurs – and they weren’t exposed to the virus and building immunity. This allowed the virus to spread in the summer, instead.

Plan to make an appointment to get the flu shot

If you’re in the habit of going to your local pharmacy, hospital or doctor’s office to get your flu shot whenever appropriate, this year you may find you have to make an appointment, as providers struggle to treat COVID patients, maintain social distancing, step away from protocols, and meet demand for COVID tests and vaccinations.

Kevin Ban, Walgreens’ chief medical officer, recommends scheduling COVID-19 and flu vaccines online.

“We are doing everything we can to make it easy for people to make their appointments and get their vaccinations easy,” Pan said, adding that you can also call Walgreen’s toll-free number to make an appointment.

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Now is the time to get ready for flu season.

Sarah Teo / CNET

It’s safe to get COVID and flu vaccinations at the same time

The CDC has confirmed that it is safe to get the flu shot and the COVID vaccine in the same session. (Vaccine maker Moderna is already working on a Combined COVID-19 Vaccine/Influenza Vaccine, but that combo won’t be available this year.)

And don’t worry about more serious side effects with the four-part flu vaccine: Whether the shot uses three or four ingredients, the typical form Side effects It should be the same, said Chen Hong, a UCSF physician. They include redness or swelling at the injection site, muscle aches, mild fever, headache and nausea, all of which should go away after a few days.

do you want more? We have exposed our falsehood 9 myths about the flu vaccine Explain how to find out if you have Flu, COVID or common cold.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to provide health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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