The bad news is that the flu and COVID-19 have been found to produce what is being called a “twindemic”. Cases of the flu are surfacing at the same time as COVID-19 and people are testing positive for both. The good news is that at least one expert is saying to stay calm. For once it doesn’t seem to merit predictions of doom and gloom.
Flurona is real. It is a combination of the flu and coronavirus. Cases are beginning to surface. The first report of such a finding was in Israel. The Times of Israel first reported a case of flurona with an unvaccinated pregnant woman at the Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva. Health officials expect an increase during the winter months, the traditional season for the flu, as the Omicron variant quickly spreads across the country. Patients will test positive for both viruses.
It isn’t the first time the coronavirus has merged with the flu. It happened in the very early days of the pandemic.
While the word is relatively new and rising in popularity, cases of flu and covid-19 co-infections are not. And flurona is not a distinct disease, but refers to when a person has been infected with both viruses. Flurona instances have been detected in countries including the United States, Israel, Brazil, the Philippines and Hungary, some even before the term was coined.
Instances of the co-infection were reported in the United States almost two years ago, according to a report from the Atlantic. In February 2020, a man entered a New York hospital with a severe cough and fever. At the time, the city had not officially reported any cases of the coronavirus. The patient tested positive for influenza and was then tested for the coronavirus. Weeks later, results confirmed that he, along with three family members, had contracted both viruses.
Cases are beginning to emerge in the United States. One teenage boy in Houston tested positive for both on Christmas Eve. Alec Zierlein, the 17-year-old son of sports radio host Lance Zierlein, said it felt like a mild cold. He, one of his brothers, and his father began feeling sick and got tested. He had been vaccinated against COVID-19 but not the flu.
“I ended up getting tested the day before Christmas for strep throat, flu and COVID,” said Zierlein. “I didn’t think I had any of the three. It felt like a mild cold.”
It turns out, the teen had both the flu and COVID-19, a diagnosis that’s been dubbed as “flurona.”
“I hadn’t heard anything about that until that moment. Not on the news or anything, like diseases that just stacking up on one another,” Zierlein said.
Dr. Janak Patel, director of the Department of Infection Control and Healthcare Epidemiology at UTMB, says the symptoms are similar. Patel says not to panic, get the vaccines and practice good hygiene.
According to Patel, UTMB is seeing a 30 to 40% positivity rate for COVID. However, the flu is only around 4%. Still, within the last week, UTMB has seen three cases of “flurona,” including one in a child. Patel said all patients are doing well, provided they got a quick and accurate diagnosis.
“I don’t think we should be scared. We know how to take care of both of these illnesses,” said Patel, who points out vaccines and good hygiene are the best ways to prevent both illnesses.
So, that’s reassuring.
A COVID-19 testing site in L.A. County reports a case of flurona, too.
Officials at the 911 COVID-19 testing site in Brentwood said a child tested positive for both Influenza A and SARS-CoV-2. In addition, the boy’s mother tested positive for COVID-19 the next day.
The two had just returned from a family vacation in Cabo San Lucas. However, officials say the other family members tested negative for COVID-19.
Steve Farzam, the COO of 911 COVID Testing wasn’t as optimistic as the Texas health expert. He said it was a New Year’s resolution to flatten the curve but now its turned in to a “nightmare” and technicians are fatigued. We’re all old enough to remember that the whole flatten the curve thing didn’t work out so well in 2020, either. That’s the thing about viruses, they move on their own schedules. The initial lockdowns and other harsh measures that were to flatten the curve initially ended up prolonging the pandemic, as it turns out. Now the Omicron variant is rapidly spreading and those same measures are creeping back. Let’s hope we’ve learned something since the early days of 2020. So far, there is no need to panic. Keep the schools open, get vaccinated, use some common sense out in public around groups of people.
People with basic cold symptoms are going for testing.
“Our resources have been so inundated with the vast amount of folks being who are getting tested. We’re seeing folks who do have some basic cold symptoms, getting repeated tests, showing up almost every day of the week for a COVID test,” Farzam said. “If we can capture influenza-positive early on, then we could presumably prevent them from coming back every day, so we can save those tests for the people who really do need them.”
It’s confusing and frustrating for most people. The CDC and the Biden administration keep moving the goal posts and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of coordination on messaging. That’s been a problem all along during the pandemic. Maybe we have finally reached a time of ending the doom and gloom, we’re all going to die and are replacing it with a message to stay calm and take precautions as best as you can. If you test positive, your symptoms will likely be highly manageable.