Yes, it is possible for someone to be diagnosed with the flu and COVID at the same time, doctors say. Cases of people who have tested positive for both viruses have recently been reported, in what is now known as “Florona”.
But despite some misconceptions on the Internet, viruses did not fuse to produce a new disease. Infections remain separate.
“Florona is a well-thought-out experiment and it could actually happen,” said Dr. Mark Loveman, president. “The influenza virus and the COVID-19 virus are different enough that they are two different variants and they can both happen at the same time.” Family and Community Medicine for Cook County Health.
Here’s what we know so far about ‘flurona’ and what to expect.
Are there cases in the Chicago area yet?
While he doesn’t know of any cases in the Chicago area yet, Loveman said, he imagines “there may be cases that have occurred that we don’t know about and haven’t tested.”
“It doesn’t seem to be common but I would expect it to become more common now that the flu is starting to appear,” he said in an interview on Friday.
Testing is increasing in the Chicago area “not just for COVID but for the entire respiratory system,” Loveman said, which could lead to some cases of “Florona” being reported. But he noted that testing for such cases is largely done when a patient is sick enough to need medical attention.
Will Florona cause a disease more serious than COVID?
Experts say that the severity of the double infection can cause more serious illness, but this is not always the case.
“Co-infections of any kind can be severe or exacerbate symptoms altogether,” said Kristin Coleman, associate research professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
“It can certainly be more severe when you’re fighting a double infection, but the symptoms are very similar,” he said.
What are the symptoms of Florona?
According to Loveman, there’s no clear way to tell the difference between COVID or the flu — and there’s no real way to tell if you have both.
“We make most of these diagnoses clinically,” he said.
But while the symptoms are nearly identical, there can be subtle differences.
“One thing is the fever with the flu tends to be a little bit higher, but that’s subtle,” he said. So 101, 102 [degree] Fever can occur with COVID, fever can be a little higher with influenza but it can also be low. Other than that, you know, a cough, a headache, a stuffy nose…congestion, a little bit of shortness of breath — these are all very common for both influenza and COVID and I think for most of us, we wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference.”
Whether you’ve been exposed or not feeling well, experts say to assume that those who think they might have a cold could have contracted the coronavirus, particularly in increased omicron cases across the country, which leads to a milder penetrating infection. .
“If you think it’s a cold, if you think it’s the flu, it’s probably COVID,” Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said at a news conference late last month. “We want you to stay home if you’re not feeling well.”
Dr. Catherine Boyling, an infectious disease specialist and member of the Immunization Practices Advisory Committee, told NBC News last month that cough, congestion, runny nose and fatigue appear to be prominent symptoms with the omicron variable. But unlike Delta, many patients do not lose their taste or smell.
The evidence so far, according to Poehling, is anecdotal and not based on scientific research. She also noted that these symptoms may only reflect certain populations.
However, CDC data showed that the most common symptoms, especially with omicron so far, are cough, fatigue, congestion, and runny nose.
In general, symptoms of COVID reported by the CDC include:
- fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of sense of taste or smell
- sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
What should you do if you think you have Florona?
The guidance doesn’t change, Loveman said, unless you feel sick enough to seek medical help.
“Follow the same guidelines we’ve been saying all along,” Loveman said. “Stay home, stay away from others, and if you’re sick enough, if you meet the criteria for needing help, then, you know, the clinical setting will determine which test to do.”
The most useful prognosis is those who need antiviral treatment, Loveman said, because the way viruses are treated is different.
How do you know if you need medical help? There are some signs to watch, Loveman said.
“Shortness of breath, a fever that doesn’t go away, unusual chest pain — these are all symptoms that require help,” Loveman said. “Most complications are respiratory, so shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.”
The CDC urges those who have or may have COVID-19 to watch for emergency warning signs and seek medical care immediately if they experience symptoms including:
- breathing difficulties
- Constant pain or pressure in the chest
- new confusion
- Inability to wake up or stay awake
- Pale, gray, or blue skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
“This list is not all possible symptoms,” the CDC says. “Please contact your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or worry you.”
You can also notify the operator that you think you or someone you care about has the COVID virus.
Can you get tested for both COVID and flu?
Coleman said home tests for the flu aren’t as widely available as those for COVID-19, but some pharmacies offer tests for both viruses at the same time. Loveman argued, however, that such a test is most useful in a clinical setting.
“Don’t be in a rush and try to find flu tests for yourself,” he said. “We are not yet at the point where community testing is useful. And again, this is really for people who are sick enough to get healthcare and where we need to figure out how best to treat a sick patient. This is where influenza testing really comes in.” ”
In the hospital, Loveman said, testing “not just for COVID but for the entire respiratory panel” is increasing across the Chicago area, which could lead to confirmation of “Florona” cases in Illinois. But he noted that testing for such cases is only done when the patient is sick enough to need medical attention.
This is especially important, Loveman said, as a shortage of COVID tests continues to be reported across Illinois, and while hospitals struggle with an increasing number of patients who need treatment.
Laboratories may also be able to test samples for various respiratory viruses, including cold viruses. Most of them don’t have the ability to do this routinely, Coleman said, especially during the increased spread of the coronavirus.
What about vaccinations for both?
Just as you can get both viruses at the same time, you can also get both vaccines at the same time.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s safe to have an injection or a booster dose of flu and COVID-19 at the same time.
“It’s really great helping people understand the safety of getting both vaccines at once if you’re going to be on it,” said Loveman. “You know, the immune system is incredibly talented and complex and is able to manage multiple exposures and antigens at the same time. Our bodies do this routinely in nature all the time. So, simultaneous injections of two or more vaccines at the same time, it doesn’t affect the efficacy. There. A few specific vaccines where we put them in but for most vaccines, including influenza and COVID, you need to take them as soon as you get them.”
Loveman adds that although both vaccines may not completely prevent infection, they can help prevent serious illness from either virus.
What is the period of greatest risk for florona cases?
Flu cases are expected to continue to rise through the winter and early spring, Loveman said, but each year is different.
“Every year is a little different when it ends,” he said. “It always burns out sometime in the spring. But we have three months and maybe longer, and there will be more cases and the more they spread and the more disease we will see.”
Meanwhile, Omicron COVID cases continue to rise to record levels in Illinois and across the country. Some experts predict that the swing could peak this month.