Don’t Be Concerned About ‘Flurona.’ Getting the Flu and COVID-19 at the Same Time isn’t a rare occurrence.
The term “fluorine” has entered the pandemic lexicon, however, it does not refer to a novel variety or even a new condition. The made-up name refers to having both influenza and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, at the same time.
Because the two diseases do not mix to generate a hybrid virus, the term “fluorine” is a bit of a fearmongering misnomer. Co-infection, on the other hand, is becoming more common. Since the beginning of the pandemic, having COVID-19 and the flu at the same time has been a risk, but strict safety precautions have mostly kept such fears from materializing.
“Everyone was basically hunkered down—we sealed our doors and shuttered our windows.” We disguised ourselves. Dr Frank Esper, a physician at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Pediatric Infectious Diseases, adds, “Schools were closed and daycares were closed.” “As a result, all the viruses took a dip.” That isn’t the case now. “We’re finding a lot of people who have the coronavirus and a second or even third pathogen at the same time,” Esper says, which might mean an increase in the number of “fluorine” cases.
A youngster sick with both influenza and COVID-19 was healing at home earlier this week, according to Texas Children’s Hospital. Flurona was initially diagnosed in Los Angeles County as a teen who had recently returned from a family vacation to Mexico. He is healing at home and has no major symptoms, according to reports. In Israel, the first case was recently reported in an unvaccinated pregnant woman who had mild symptoms, and cases have already been reported in Brazil and Hungary.
Here’s everything you need to know about flu and COVID-19 co-infection:
Is fluorine new?
No. It’s not uncommon to have more than one virus at the same time, and it’s become increasingly prevalent in recent decades, according to Esper, so having the flu and coronavirus at the same time isn’t strange. “It’s critical for people to understand that we’ve seen a lot of these co-infections for decades,” he says. “This is not a new phenomenon” and should not be taken seriously.
Coinfection was already occurring in 2020, according to a study conducted at Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, China, which indicated that approximately 12% of the 544 COVID-19 patients also had influenza. Another study from 2020 found that 42 per cent of coronavirus patients hospitalized in New York City were co-infected with another virus, and one was co-infected with the flu. In the same year, researchers in Northern California discovered that roughly 21% of COVID-19-positive specimens also tested positive for another infection, most commonly rhinovirus.
Is flurona going to be more prevalent this year?
Almost certainly. The extremely contagious Omicron form continues to spread over the world, with new cases breaking records almost every day. The flu, a respiratory infection, is most common in the fall and winter, with peaks in December and February. Flu activity is currently low in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but it is progressively increasing.
When people cough, sneeze or talk to each other, the flu spreads through droplets in the air, similar to SARS-CoV-2. It spreads through contaminated surfaces less commonly. You could become infected if someone with the flu touched a grocery store shelf and then you did—and then rubbed your eyes or put your fingers in your mouth. The flu can spread from a distance of up to 6 feet.
“There was no talk about COVID and influenza last year since there was no influenza going around,” explains Mayo Clinic infectious disease specialist Dr Abinash Virk. Because vaccines were not yet accessible, mask mandates were in effect, and people began to socially distance themselves and avoid social gatherings. “Influenza has already picked up this year,” Virk says. “Yes, we are concerned that people will become infected with both illnesses.”
Also alarming, according to Virk, fewer people are taking the flu shot this year than in prior years. For example, as of the end of November, 47.5 per cent of pregnant women had received their shot, down roughly 15 percentage points from the same time the previous year.
Can I still develop co-infection if I took the flu vaccine and was immunized against COVID-19?
Yes. “It’s not like you acquire the vaccine and instantly become bulletproof,” Virk explains. However, getting vaccinated against both viruses is the greatest approach to avoid hospitalization and serious disease. “You could still develop a minor infection, but hopefully it will be minor.”
There’s some evidence that this year’s flu vaccine doesn’t quite match the circulating strain. Manufacturers create injections to tackle four strains that circulated during the previous season; this year, however, it was tough because the pandemic wiped out the flu in 2020-2021. Even so, it’s critical to obtain the shot. “That doesn’t mean you won’t get protection,” Esper explains. Almost everyone over the age of 6 months is eligible, and it’s highly recommended for pregnant women, older individuals, young children, and those with weakened immune systems.
What are the flurona symptoms?
Fever, coughing, weariness, sore throat, runny nose, and muscle aches are all signs of COVID-19 and influenza. Esper believes that those with co-infection won’t have any unusual symptoms.
Patients with a dual infection who are admitted to the hospital will be treated based on their risk of developing a serious sickness, according to Virk. Tamiflu, an antiviral that can reduce the length of time a person is sick with the flu while also lowering the risk of significant complications and mortality, as well as COVID-19-specific therapies including oxygen, monoclonal antibodies, and IL6 receptor blockers, are examples. The specific treatment plan will be determined by the circumstances and personal risk factors of each patient. Patients at a “higher risk of severe lung illness,” such as those who are obese, will undergo more intensive treatment, according to Virk.
It’s possible that co-infection will make you sicker for longer: COVID-19 individuals who also had influenza shed SARS-CoV-2 for 17 days, compared to 12 days for those with only one infection in one of the early investigations in Wuhan.
Is it true that having the illness at the same time makes COVID-19 worse?
“The jury’s still out,” Esper says, “and that’s something we’re very interested in seeing.” But there’s the reason for optimism: research has historically indicated that people with two or three viruses at the same time don’t experience more severe illness than if they just had one. “Everybody knows flu is bad; everybody knows coronavirus is bad,” he says. “You put the two together, you think you’re even worse. For the most part, virus-wise, we don’t see that.”
Still, Esper adds, every virus can manifest differently, and so can specific pairings. So if you have both viruses A and virus B, you might experience more severe disease; mix up a virus C and virus D cocktail, and you wouldn’t see such an effect. That underscores the need for more data to draw a conclusion.
Are children at a higher risk?
According to Esper, young children are six to eight times more likely than adults to have many illnesses at the same time, partially due to their exposure to so many germs at places like daycare. He also points out that flu vaccination rates among children are typically low. According to CDC data, 58.6 per cent of children aged 6 months to 17 years old were immunized during the 2020-2021 flu season, a fall of nearly 5 percentage points from the previous season. Children under the age of five are still unable to receive a coronavirus vaccine, making them particularly vulnerable to infection.
What can I do to protect myself against flurona?
We already know how to keep healthy, which is great news. “If there was one huge takeaway over the last 12 months, it was how few respiratory viruses we encountered because everyone was masked up, cleaning their hands, and putting distance between themselves and the virus,” Esper says. “So, if you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Do I really have to wear a mask?’ It does more than only protect you from the coronavirus. It also protects against influenza, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), rhinovirus, and all the other viruses that are out there.”
Get vaccinated against COVID-19 (with a booster after five months) and the flu if you haven’t already. In public, wear a mask, get tested periodically, and avoid large gatherings. Although the term “flurona” is new, the advice is not.