Health

What Is ‘Flurona’? What to Know About Co-Infections of Covid-19 and the Flu

Flurona is not a new type of Covid-19. Nor is it a new disease or any kind of medical terminology.

The word flurona has gained popularity as a way of describing a positive test case for both Covid-19 and influenza at the same time. As flu season begins in the United States and other countries, some hospitals and Covid-19 testing sites in California and Texas in the United States and abroad in Israel have reported cases of people with influenza and Covid-19.

Infectious disease experts say the co-infection of two separate respiratory illnesses is not a new phenomenon — and reports that people have contracted Covid-19 and the flu date to the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what you need to know about flurona, or having both the flu and Covid-19 at once.

What is Florona?

It is possible for a person to test positive for both influenza and Covid-19 at the same time, according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flurona is an informal way of describing it, combining the words flu and coronavirus, according to the definition of the word published by Dictionary.com this week.

“This is not a new entity. We shouldn’t comment on these labels,” said Janak Patel, director of the division of infectious diseases and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, where three patients have tested positive for both diseases. .”

The emergence of the new word comes with increased flu activity across the United States, particularly in the eastern and central regions of the country, according to the CDC. Health experts expected this flu season to be worse than last year’s, when many protocols such as wearing masks and social distancing were put in place to slow the spread of Covid-19, and also significantly reduced the spread of influenza.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness that typically spreads in the United States from October through May, with many cases recorded from December through February.

Will the number of associated injuries increase?

Infectious disease experts said the simultaneous spread of influenza and the highly transmissible Omicron variant, which has fueled record levels of new Covid-19 cases, could mean an increase in the number of co-infections.

Multiple antigen testing for influenza and Covid-19. Infectious disease experts say the number of co-infections may increase.


Photo:

Sarah Ringwertz/The Associated Press

The United States will see more co-infections with influenza and COVID-19, said Timothy Brewer, a professor in the department of infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He said they are two different viruses and will not combine to create a new one.

“None of this was unexpected or unusual,” Dr. Brewer said. “These are viruses that behave exactly the way we expect them to.”

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health does not track or investigate individual influenza cases. A representative said the department saw tests positive for influenza and Covid-19 simultaneously, but could not say how often.

“Concurrent infection with more than one respiratory virus is extremely common and there is no reason to expect SARS-CoV-2 to be an exception to this rule,” said a representative from the Los Angeles County Department of Health.

What are the symptoms of Florona?

Covid-19 and influenza are separate respiratory diseases with their treatment and vaccine options.

Different viruses share some similarities, including symptoms, methods of spread, types of people most at risk of developing serious illness, and steps that can be taken to slow the spread of each of these diseases, according to the World Health Organization.

Flu season is approaching and health experts expect it to be worse than last year. Felicia Schwartz of the Wall Street Journal explains why this could be earlier and more severe and what precautions people can take during the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Joe Riddell/Getty Images (Video from 09/27/27)

Covid-19 and influenza share many symptoms, including cough, fatigue, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, body aches and a runny or stuffy nose, among others, according to the CDC. With such similar symptoms, experts say, it is difficult to distinguish whether a person has Covid-19, or the flu, or not.

“There are no specific symptoms that can tell you that you have the infection at the same time,” said Jonathan Green, director of hospital epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Are influenza and Covid-19 more dangerous together?

Experts said there is no plentiful data or research to determine whether having Covid-19 and influenza at the same time will lead to a more serious illness than if a person had only one disease.

A review published in December 2021 in the journal Frontiers in Public Health found that the presence of the two diseases at the same time “has no effect on the overall mortality rate.” She cited dozens of studies that examined the severity of co-infections with Covid-19 and influenza.

Infectious disease experts said there is limited data and experience with this specific type of co-infection, although there are no clear indications that co-infection has led to more serious illness.

“Of course, common sense might dictate that having two viruses might not be good,” Dr. Green said. “However, we don’t have enough data, and we haven’t seen clear evidence of worse outcomes with both infections.”

How can I protect myself from catching flu or contracting COVID-19 and the flu at the same time?

US experts are urging a vaccination – against Covid-19 and the flu – to protect themselves from severe illness, hospitalization and death.

People can also receive the flu shot and the Covid-19 vaccine at the same time, according to the CDC, and officials suggest getting them in different arms. Americans six months of age and older can receive the flu shot, and those age five and older are eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine.

Flu vaccines can often be found in pharmacies and health departments, and in some cases, may be provided by employers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says early indications are that uptake of flu vaccinations this season may be lower than it was last year. The flu vaccine is designed to protect against four influenza viruses that experts predict will most likely circulate during flu season.

“Get the flu shot,” Dr. Patel said. If you don’t get very sick from the coronavirus, you could catch the flu this year. Respect both viruses. And if you have an infection, don’t panic.”

Write to Jennifer Calfas at jennifer.calfas@wsj.com

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