Woman sick with flurona

During the 2020-21 and 2021-22 flu seasons, health experts were concerned about a potential “twindemic.” The term referred to a severe flu season occurring at the same time as the global COVID-19 pandemic, potentially causing additional stress on the health care system.

The 2020-21 flu season was mild, so a “twindemic” never emerged.

Now, during the 2021-22 flu season, another term has emerged: “flurona.” It means a person has a double infection: both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time.

Is Flurona New?

Flurona is a new term, but it’s not a new condition. It’s not a hybrid disease. It just means that someone has tested positive for both COVID-19 and the flu.

Different viruses cause COVID-19 and the flu, and the World Health Organization says it’s possible to be infected with both at once.

Reports of double infections with COVID-19 and the flu date back almost two years, but they appear to be occurring more frequently now.

With the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant, cases of COVID-19 rose sharply in the United States. With the Omicron surge happening during flu season, more people are getting co-infections.

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How Common Is Flurona?

It is currently unknown how common it is for someone to be infected with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

As of early January 2022, the number of reported co-infections was low compared to the number of people with one infection.

How Bad Is Flurona?

Both COVID-19 and the flu have similar respiratory symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common symptoms of both the flu and COVID-19 include:

  • Fever/chills.
  • Cough.
  • Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing.
  • Fatigue.
  • Sore throat.
  • Nasal congestion/runny nose.
  • Muscle pain/body aches.
  • Headache.
  • Vomiting/diarrhea.

People also can lose their sense of taste or smell, but that symptom is more common with COVID-19 than with the flu.

Having both flu and COVID-19 can put an additional strain on your immune system. According to a May 2021 analysis from PLOS One, people who had a co-infection of COVID-19 and another virus were at higher risk for worse outcomes, including death, than people who had just COVID-19.

If you have both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, your symptoms will not necessarily be more severe. Factors like your age, overall health, and vaccination status can play a role. People who have been vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19 are less likely to have severe symptoms if they get infected.

How Can I Prevent Flurona?

The best way to prevent a co-infection of flu and COVID-19 is by getting vaccinated against both diseases.

People who have been vaccinated are less at risk of infection. More importantly, they are at less risk of severe outcomes, including hospitalization and death. People who have not been vaccinated are more at risk of infection and severe cases.

The CDC recommends Americans 6 months old and older get the flu vaccine each year. The CDC also recommends all Americans 5 and older get the COVID-19 vaccine and get an additional dose if eligible.

At UPMC, we are following CDC guidelines and recommend vaccination for both COVID-19 and the flu if you are eligible.

  • You can get the flu shot in several different UPMC locations, including your primary care provider’s office, UPMC Urgent Care, or UPMC Children’s Community Pediatrics. To learn more about getting a flu shot at UPMC, visit our website.
  • To learn more about scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine or additional dose appointment at UPMC, visit Vaccine.UPMC.com or call 844-876-2822 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

“Vaccination remains our most efficient method of fighting both influenza and COVID-19 infections,” says Gorka Murga, MD, of Lindenbaum, Perryman & Associates-UPMC. “If you have not done so already, please get vaccinated.”

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Similarities and Differences Between Flu and COVID-19. Link

Jennifer Hassan, Washington Post, What Is 'Flurona'? Coronavirus and Influenza Co-Infections Reported as Omicron Surges. Link

Jackson S. Musuuza, Lauren Watson, Vishala Parmasad, et al, PLOS One, Prevalence and Outcomes of Co-Infection and Superinfection with SARS-CoV-2 and Other Pathogens: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Link

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.