As the omicron variant of COVID-19 surges and a record-breaking number of people are becoming infected with the flu, cases of “flurona” are beginning to be reported.
The term “flurona,” coined by an Israeli news outlet Jan. 2, refers to when a person is infected with both influenza and COVID-19 simultaneously. “Flurona” is neither a medical diagnosis nor a new COVID-19 variant, it is a term used to describe influenza and COVID-19 co-infection.
“Flurona” was first confirmed in Israel in December 2021 when an unvaccinated pregnant woman tested positive for both the flu and COVID-19.
While the term “flurona” may be new, instances of co-infection are not. Influenza and COVID-19 co-infections have been reported as early as February 2020 in New York.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said both COVID-19 and the flu are respiratory infections, which means both have similar symptoms. Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat and runny nose. Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches and loss of taste or smell.
WHO said that both viruses are transmitted through droplets and aerosols that can be passed on by coughing, sneezing, speaking or breathing.
Symptoms of COVID-19 appear anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure and symptoms of the flu appear one to four days after infection. For both COVID-19 and the flu, it’s possible to spread the virus for at least one day before experiencing any symptoms. Those with the flu can remain contagious for about seven days and those with COVID-19 for at least 10 days.
Because the two viruses have nearly identical symptoms, testing is needed to diagnose both. Testing for COVID-19 and the flu requires either a nasal or throat swab. Both are airborne diseases, so in the USA the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends social distancing and wearing a mask in public, indoor spaces to avoid infection as well.
Experts say that precautions that can decrease risk of contracting either virus include getting vaccinated for both influenza and COVID-19, wearing a mask in indoor spaces and crowded outdoor spaces, avoiding large gatherings, avoiding close contact with people that are sick, washing your hands often and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
The CDC said the 2020-21 flu season was the “lowest recorded since this type of data collection began in 2005” with only 0.2% of 818,939 respiratory specimens tested by U.S. clinical laboratories being positive for an influenza virus. The CDC said COVID-19 prevention measures such as wearing face masks, staying home, hand-washing, school closures, reduced travel, increased ventilation of indoor spaces and physical distancing contributed to the decrease in 2020-21 flu cases.
Being as safe as you can be is always important, experts add. With friends and family possibly having medical vulnerabilities, it is always important to do things like get vaccinated and wear a mask for the people around you. Take good care of your body, get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of water, eat food high in nutrients, such as vegetables, fruits and nuts, stay physically active and manage stress, the experts recommend.