General News, Health

COVID-19 and the flu at the same time? What to know about ‘flurona’

While rates of COVID-19 remain high across the country, flu clusters are beginning to pop up as well. And with both illnesses spreading, the possibility of getting a co-infection involving both of them — nicknamed “flurona” — is also becoming more of a possibility.

In fact, a woman was released from an Israeli hospital just this week after being infected with both COVID-19 and the flu. Although she had mild symptoms, she was pregnant and unvaccinated, according to a report in the Times of Israel. And co-infections like these have been reported in the U.S. as early as spring 2020.

Thankfully, the risk of developing infections like these is rare. But the possibility is all the more reason to protect yourself — from both viruses.

The omicron surge continues while the flu is picking up steam.

“COVID rates have never been worse in our area and for much of the country,” Dr. Costi Sifri, director of hospital epidemiology at UVA Health, told TODAY. 

That’s largely fueled by the emergence of the omicron variant on top of delta COVID-19 cases that were already spreading, Eili Klein, associate professor in the department of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told TODAY.

“If you add the prospect of flu to the mix, that can only exacerbate what is already a very, very challenging situation in health care particularly for us in general,” Sifri said.

While the last flu season was mild, some states are seeing rising rates of influenza right now while others aren’t, which is unusual in a different way, Klein explained. “Normally this is actually the peak where much of the country is starting to see high rates of flu,” he said, noting that behavioral changes in response to rising COVID-19 cases — wearing masks again, avoiding crowds — might be helping to prevent the spread of flu in some areas.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, certain areas of the country are seeing more transmission than others. States such as New Jersey, Georgia and North Dakota are experiencing very high levels of flu-like illness as of the week ending Dec. 25, according to the most recent CDC data available. Virginia, New York, South Carolina and Florida are also seeing high amounts of transmission right now. 

Hospitalizations due to flu are increasing as well, the CDC said.

Rather than a “twindemic” of both COVID-19 and flu cases peaking at the same time, Klein expects to see the current omicron-fueled wave subside and a subsequent peak of flu cases in the coming weeks.

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