Wednesday, January 26, 2022

‘Fluorona’: Can you get the flu and the coronavirus at the same time?

Reports of double infection from flu virus and coronavirus have been making sensational headlines recently. Last week Israel confirmed its first case of “Fluorona” in a non-vaccinated woman, followed by a rising number of cases in children in the United States. No one was seriously ill, but the name “Fluorona” stuck.

“It sounds like a ‘sharknado’,” said Dr. Saad B. Omar, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health. “But it’s not a known medical term.”

As flu season begins and the Omicron version continues to rise, how concerned should we be? We spoke to experts to better understand what testing positive for both the infections could mean. Here’s what we learned.

Why am I hearing about it now?

People have been testing positive for both COVID-19 and influenza, or the flu, since the pandemic began.

From late January to late March 2020, researchers in China found nearly 100 cases of patients testing positive for both diseases in Wuhan. The Atlantic reported on a family in Queens who tested positive for both infections in February. And researchers in Barcelona published a paper in May 2020 describing four people with both diseases in the early months of the pandemic.

At the time, before vaccines were available, such double infections, or what infectious disease experts call co-infections, seemed uncommon. For example, a spring 2020 study in New York City found that of nearly 1,200 COVID-19 patients tested for other respiratory viruses, such as influenza or the common cold, only 36, or less than 3 percent, had There was a simultaneous infection. , Last winter was also a particularly vulnerable cold and flu season, with fewer people socializing and many wearing masks.

“The reason we haven’t talked about it much is that it isn’t a challenge clinically yet,” said Dr. Jonathan D. Green, infectious disease physician and director of hospital epidemiology at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. “We anticipate that as the flu becomes more prevalent, we will see more co-infections.” If it becomes a serious problem, experts expect to learn more about it in the coming months.

Will co-infection make me doubly sick?

A co-infection does not immediately mean that a patient will be doubly ill. A strong immune response can actually help the body fight off all kinds of pathogens, so an infection may stimulate some additional defenses.

“Infection to one can help aid your immune response to the other, because it’s activating the same immune response that’s going to be effective at fighting both,” Dr. Green said.

Still, scientists don’t know for sure yet, as very few people have tested positive for both COVID-19 and influenza. But looking at past trends, doctors are not overly concerned.

“Most people who have influenza do well. Most people who have COVID do fine, especially if they are vaccinated,” said Dr. Andrew D. Badgley, an infectious disease specialist and SARS-CoV at Mayo Clinic. -2 Chairman of the Covid-19 Task Force. “It’s hard to predict,” he continued, “but we expect that most people who are co-infected with the two viruses will do just fine.”

Studies show that infection with two concurrent viruses does not make the child sick

But as Dr. Badgley and other experts point out, it’s generally better to have one infection than two. There is a higher chance of complications with the two infections, and it is a huge stress on the body.

“The human immune system can make antibodies to multiple pathogens at once,” said Dr. Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and associate professor of population health and disease prevention at the University of California, Irvine, who studies influenza.

“But given the choice between getting infected with one or two, I will always choose one,” he continued, “I can’t tell you that two is worse than one, but the less viral threat, the better.”

Who is most sensitive?

Dr. Omar, who is also a professor of infectious disease and epidemiology at Yale, identified two groups that he says may be susceptible to co-infection.

First: illiterate adults. “Based on previous work on vaccination, people who refuse one vaccine may also refuse others,” he said. He said he expects there will be “significant overlap between people who refuse both vaccines”.

Second: children, especially children under the age of five, who are too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Kids are also petri dishes, as any parent will tell you, and have gone through fewer cycles of the flu. So, even if a child gets the flu shot, Dr. Omar said, “their library of protection is narrow” against the many viral flu strains that may emerge each year.

What are the risks for the frail or elderly?

Experts agreed that a patient who is already vulnerable to a serious illness from one disease may suffer even more if he is doubly infected.

“It is possible that people who would have had a worse outcome from the flu would have had a worse outcome from the combination of the flu and COVID,” Dr Badgley said.

What are the risks for children?

Pediatricians were optimistic that “Fluorona” would not affect most children. This is because children may be more likely to have multiple infections at the same time than adults.

“This is not surprising to most people who work in pediatrics,” said Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. “We see co-infections all the time.”

“Co-infection with the coronavirus is expected,” Dr. Esper continued. “I don’t find it worrying.” His research team has found that co-infections of different types of respiratory viruses are more common in children than in adults. He added that other earlier studies also show that infection with two concurrent viruses does not make the child sick.

‘If you don’t want to get the coronavirus, and you don’t want to get the flu, the best thing you can do is: basically do everything you did last year’

Dr. Aaron M. Millstone, a professor of pediatric infectious disease at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, also said he was a cautious optimist. Just because a child has two viruses, he said, “doesn’t mean the immune response will be twice as aggressive or produce twice as many symptoms.”

“Since viruses are co-infections, it is very reassuring – especially for parents – that we have not seen many children coming into the hospital with severe co-infections,” said Dr. Millstone. . “We’re not suddenly seeing more kids in the intensive care unit,” he said.

What if I test positive for both viruses?

First and foremost: don’t panic. It can be extra stressful, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to get extra sick. Also, it is possible that you have already had a virus and have recovered from it, but it is still showing up in your test results.

If your symptoms are severe, or you have trouble breathing, call your doctor. Doctors said they would probably treat a patient who had both infections the way they would treat someone who had just one. Experts believe that the treatments will not work against each other or cause problems in the patient’s body.

“The decision to treat Covid is related to how sick you are,” Dr Badgley said. “It won’t change if you have the flu at the same time. What might change is that you can also get treatments directed toward influenza.”

How can I prevent co-infection?

“We have given several vaccines at the same time for decades,” said Dr. Badgley, without any side effects. “The side effects are similar” when administered together, “and the side effects of both vaccines are very, very few.”

In addition, experts agree that you should wear a mask and maintain social distancing measures when appropriate. Both the flu and the coronavirus are airborne viruses, so limiting your exposure reduces your chances of getting infected.

“If you don’t want to get the coronavirus, and you don’t want to get the flu,” Dr. Esper said, “the best thing you could do was: basically do everything you did last year.” – This article originally appeared in the new York Times

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