The name evokes images of cheap cable horror movies – think “Sharknado” – but flu-COVID dual infections are real. Several cases are likely. And they are not nearly as scary as flying sharks – especially for people who have been vaccinated against one or both.
Texas Children’s Hospital announced this week that tests confirmed a child was infected with influenza A and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The patient was not admitted and is recovering at home, the hospital states. No other details were given.
“This is a confirmed case, and of course we will work with our colleagues across the country to see if there are more cases and if we will see a clear pattern in these cases,” Dr. Jim Versalovic, pathologist-in-chief and COVID-19 command center co-manager at the hospital, told reporters Monday.
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The announcement comes days after Israel reported its first confirmed “flurona” case in an unvaccinated pregnant woman at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, the Times of Israel reports.
Health experts expect to see more “flurona” in the midst of rapidly rising influenza and coronavirus cases, the latter being driven by the highly contagious omicron variant. And this is not the first time that healthcare providers have seen co-infections of influenza and COVID-19, as well as other viruses.
Texas Children’s Hospital was also the first children’s hospital in the United States to report a concomitant infection with COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, in the summer. Versalovic said dozens of children with concomitant infections required hospitalization.
But there is no specific treatment or vaccine for RSV, so experts speculate that children with “flurona” may experience better results.
“I expect to see lots of concomitant infections (of influenza and COVID-19) in the future, but I do not see anything to suggest that it makes COVID infections worse,” said Dr. Frank Esper, a physician at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Pediatric Infectious Diseases. “These are two viral pathogens that we actually have medication for.”
In addition to life-saving vaccines to prevent serious illness, he said, healthcare providers are ready to treat the infections simultaneously with Tamiflu and remdesivir.
Immunocompromised people are vulnerable to these infections, but co-infections are more likely to occur in young children, experts say, because their immune system is still unfamiliar with many common viruses.
“Hands down, the No. 1 disposition to have more than one virus at a time is your age, and it really is children under 5,” Esper said. “They all have viruses running wild and swapping them as trading cards.”
Cold viruses are the most commonly seen cases of co-infection, Esper said, whereas co-infections with the flu are less commonly observed.
“There are certain pathogens that do not like to dance with anyone, and the flu is one of them,” he said. “When the body gets infected (with the flu virus), it really starts flooding the whole system with a lot of immune components that prevent virus infection,” making it harder for other pathogens to enter the body and cause disease.
Concomitant infections involving influenza may be less common than other viruses, but health experts still expect to see increasing cases of “flurona” as the United States approaches the highest flu activity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 43% of children aged 6 months to 17 years have been vaccinated against influenza per year. December 4th.
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Texas Children’s Hospital said it has diagnosed more than 90 flu cases since Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, weekly COVID-19 cases have doubled in the midst of the spread of the omicron variant.
“Over the weekend, we broke previous records set during the delta wave in August,” Versalovic said. “Just in two to three weeks, we saw the huge impact of omicron’s overhaul of the delta.”
It is still unclear whether “flurona” causes more serious illness, but health experts do not want to take any chances. They urge Americans to get vaccinated against both viruses as soon as possible.
The influenza vaccine is available for children over 6 months of age, and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is available for children 5 years of age and older.
“Influenza vaccination is the best preventative measure against becoming infected and preventing some of the serious flu-associated complications,” said Dr. Gregg Sylvester, chief physician at Seqirus, an influenza vaccine manufacturer headquartered in New Jersey. “A flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and those around you from the virus.”
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