A coronavirus testing site in Los Angeles County announced Wednesday that it has detected its first “flurona” case.
Cases of “Flurona,” a co-infection of the flu and the coronavirus, have been detected in several countries, including the U.S., Israel and Brazil, and have been happening long before the term became popular.
A New York hospital in early 2020 found one case involving a patient who tested positive for both COVID-19 and the flu, according to the Atlantic.
The recent case in L.A. County involved a teenager who had recently returned from Cabo San Lucas and tested positive for both viruses at a testing site at the Getty Center in Brentwood, Steve Farzam of 911 COVID Testing announced in a media briefing Wednesday.
The child had very mild, cold-like symptoms, Farzam said.
L.A. County Department of Public Health said it does not systematically track concurrent infections, and did not confirm the case or have information on how frequently “flurona” cases have occurred in L.A. County.
‘Flurona’ isn’t new
A county health department spokeswoman said that concurrent infections are common.
“Concurrent infection with more than one respiratory virus is exceedingly common and there is no reason to expect that SARS-CoV-2 should be an exception to this rule,” the health department spokeswoman said in a statement to KTLA. “We have seen SARS-CoV-2 and Influenza multiplex test results where both influenza and SARS-CoV-2 were positive.”
Dr. Thomas Yadegar of Providence Cedar-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center also said that an infection with two different viruses isn’t something new.
He said the medical center had a handful of “flurona cases” in March and April and they involved patients in the intensive care unit.
“We saw this early on in the pandemic, where patients were diagnosed with COVID had other respiratory viruses,” Yadegar said. “And in this case, it’s the resurgence of the influenza virus as well as a concurrent infection with COVID-19.”
But the resurgence coming amid a COVID-19 surge is concerning, the doctor said.
Concurrent infections can be concerning
Since 2020, health experts have been voicing concerns about how a “twindemic” may strain the health care system, and urging Americans to get their flu shots.
“COVID-19 is bad enough by itself and lethal,” Yadegar explained. “And every year we have hundreds of thousands of people who were hospitalized and tens of thousands who have died from influenza. So to have both of them at the same time, could be exponentially worse.”
Since there’s not enough data, it’s hard to tell if there have been more “flurona” cases recently.
One concern: L.A. County health officials said U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that influenza vaccination rates are lower this year than in previous years.
The best way to prevent a concurrent infection is to get vaccinated with both Influenza and COVID-19 vaccines, which can be administered at the same time, L.A. County health officials said.
What are ‘flurona’ symptoms?
The flu and COVID-19 are both respiratory infections, so their symptoms can be similar and they can appear in varying degrees, ranging from no symptoms to severe symptoms, according to the CDC.
Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle pain or body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Change in or loss of taste or smell, although this is more frequent with COVID-19.
The two viruses also spread similarly, through droplets and aerosols when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks, sings or breathes.
One difference is that if a person has COVID-19, it could take them longer to experience symptoms than if they had flu.
Someone with COVID-19 could also be contagious for a longer time than if they had the flu.
Since both infections can be fatal, experts say masking up is important, as is getting vaccinated.