With COVID cases on the rise as the omicron variant tears through countries around the world, many are worried about new variants that might be on the way. Now, the so-called “flurona” has some scared, but what is it?
What Is ‘Flurona?’
The buzz started when an Israeli newspaper reported that two women had tested positive for both COVID-19 and influenza. Other news outlets quickly dubbed the illness double-whammy “flurona,” leading people around the world to worry about what this could mean.
However, while you certainly want to avoid contracting either illness, “flurona” is not a new version of the coronavirus, according to infectious disease clinical researcher Laurel Bristow. “While you can be co-infected with flu and COVID at the same time, ‘flurona’ makes it sound like they’ve joined forces to make a new super virus,” Bristow told People. “It’s just an attention-grabbing nickname. They’re still two separate pathogens.”
Although these cases of “flurona” are being reported as the first time doctors are seeing this combination of COVID and flu, Bristow maintains that we’ve actually had “flurona” since the beginning of the pandemic.
“One of the first COVID cases I identified at work in March of 2020 was actually co-infected with both viruses,” Bristow explained. “It’s not new at all and not unexpected either. Even before COVID, we’d see co-infections of things like the flu and RSV [respiratory syncytial virus] or the flu and rhinovirus.”
It’s “hard to say” how many are infected with COVID-19 and the flu because the symptoms are so similar, Bristow said, encouraging people to get tested for both. “To get COVID and the flu at the same time, you have to be exposed to each,” she said.
“We’re having a worse flu season than last year (which isn’t hard, considering last year we barely had any flu at all) and with how incredibly prevalent COVID is,” Bristow continued. “It’s more likely that you could come into contact with people who have either, in a short time period, which could lead you to be infected with both.”
How To Protect Against The Illness
To protect against both illnesses, Bristow recommended getting vaccinated for both, wearing masks in crowded areas, and staying home when you’re sick. For people who do get infected with both, the treatment plan is the same as if you only had one illness.
“One of the main reasons [these] co-infections haven’t been widely discussed before is because it doesn’t change the recommendations for recovery or isolation,” Bristow said. “Still stay home, still get rest, still drink lots of fluids.”
While “flurona” isn’t new, Bristow said “hopefully this will at least put an end to the conspiracy that all COVID cases are actually the flu. They are two separate viruses that will show up as such on any test that’s looking for either, and they have not somehow mutated into a single pathogen.”