Doctor: Flurona cases possible, but rare

Mortality rate higher with combined infections

The term “flurona” has gained national attention in recent days after reports of patients having tested positive for both coronavirus and influenza A or B.

Dr. Mike Willerth, chief medical officer for UnityPoint Health — Trinity Regional Medical Center, said while possible, only a small fraction of people have tested positive for both illnesses. He said he isn’t aware of any such cases locally.

According to Willerth, throughout the U.S. less than 0.1 percent of COVID cases have had a combined infection.

Willerth said both COVID and the flu primarily affect the respiratory system.

“Both COVID and the flu can lead to serious complications including pneumonia and involvement of many other organ systems,” he said. “Mortality rate is higher with COVID and the flu.”

There’s a lot of variation in symptoms between the two viruses.

“Both illnesses have a wide spectrum of severity from being completely asymptomatic to needing hospitalization and treatment in an ICU,” Willerth said. “Although there are some differences, both viruses spread in a similar manner between people in close contact through talking, sneezing or coughing.

“Many of the symptoms with the two viruses are very similar including fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, headache, nausea and vomiting.”

Willerth said that can make it difficult to diagnose between the two illnesses based on symptoms alone.

“There is a difference between when symptoms appear after exposure, with COVID being two to 14 days and flu symptoms one to four days. COVID is more contagious and spreads more quickly.”

Willerth recommends good hand washing, limiting contact with infected persons and use of masks and vaccination to prevent transmission of either infection.

“Antiviral drugs are immediately available for treatment of flu,” he said. “Antiviral drugs for COVID-19 are on the immediate horizon.”


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