Picture this: the annual flu season that infects between five and 20 percent of the United States each year, combined with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has killed 5,481,302 people as of Jan. 6, 2022. This phenomenon has become a reality, known as ‘flurona.’
The term ‘flurona’ was born when Israel confirmed a case of someone with both Influenza and COVID-19 at the end of 2021. According to The Times of Israel, “Israel has seen a spike in flu cases in recent weeks, with close to 2,000 people hospitalized amid fears of a “twindemic” of the two diseases.”
This disease is not new, despite the recent naming. There were cases in 2020 of this disease, but at the time people were quarantining at home and keeping their masks glued to their faces. This lack of human engagement led to a significant drop in Influenza cases that year. While the end of 2019 had almost 130,000 cases, that number dropped to 1,316 cases at the end of 2020. Evidently, this combination of the flu and coronavirus wasn’t very widespread. However, precautions have relaxed since then with the dissemination of COVID-19 vaccinations, and people are now out and about. This encourages the spread of both the flu and the new contagious Omicron variant, increasing the likelihood of having both viruses – flurona.
According to Syracuse, “Flurona symptoms are the same as flu and Covid symptoms, and can include fever, cough, fatigue, runny nose, sore throat, diarrhea, and muscle and body aches. The flu and Covid are both respiratory viruses transmitted via droplets and aerosols spread by coughing, sneezing, talking, singing and breathing.”
The L.A. Times reported one case of flurona in the United States – a teenage boy in California. He became ill after his family took a trip to Mexico for winter break. He was not vaccinated against Influenza or COVID-19 but is recovering with mild symptoms.
Another American family in Houston has also come down with flurona. According to WebMD, “In Houston, a 17-year-old boy, his siblings and his father felt sick a few days before Christmas and went in for testing, TV station KTRK reported. The teen tested positive for both the flu and COVID. ‘I ended up getting tested the day before Christmas for strep throat, flu and COVID,’ the teenager, Alec Zierlein, told KTRK. ‘I didn’t think I had any of the three. It felt like a mild cold.’”
One concern with flurona is for hospitals that are already struggling with the current viruses, let alone two combined. Patients with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have already occupied many hospital beds across the country as this variant is extremely contagious and spreads rapidly.
Luckily, there are ways to prevent the spread of flurona. There are vaccines against both Influenza and COVID-19 available at local stores such as Publix, CVS or Walgreens. Measures such as wearing a mask in public, staying at home when ill and frequent hand-washing are useful in protecting not just yourself, but also the community.