What Are the Symptoms of Flurona? People Catching Flu and COVID at the Same Time

Cases of "flurona," in which people get flu and COVID-19 at the same time, have made several headlines in recent days.

It comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in December reported that flu cases in the U.S. were on the increase. Health authorities in a number of states including California, Texas, and Kansas have reported flurona cases after a case also emerged in Israel in 2021.

Flurona is not a distinct disease in and of itself, and it is not some sort of new variant. Cases of people having flu and COVID at the same time were reported as far back as February 2020, The Atlantic reported.

Still, experts have wondered whether or not viral co-infections such as this may lead to more severe symptoms in people, compared to catching just one infection.

One study from July 2021 found that getting the flu may make people more vulnerable to lung injury during co-infections.

As has often been the case throughout the pandemic though, more data is needed to paint a clearer picture, said Dr. Stanley Perlman, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa. He told Newsweek: "There are theoretical reasons to think that [flurona patients] would be sicker, as well as others that suggest that one infection might protect against severe disease with the second. I think that we will need more data to figure this out.

"Certainly if people are vaccinated against both pathogens it would seem unlikely that severe disease would result, but of course this also requires data from the clinic."

The tricky thing about detecting flu and COVID is that both diseases may have similar symptoms. The CDC states that the difference between them cannot be determined based on symptoms alone and that testing is required—though it notes that COVID can cause more serious illness and also cause people to be contagious for longer.

According to the CDC, common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include fever or feeling feverish/having chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches, headache, vomiting and diarrhea, and change in or loss of taste or smell, although this is more frequent with COVID-19.

In terms of flurona symptoms, Dr. Thomas Russo, professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York, told Prevention magazine that flurona won't cause new symptoms that are distinct from COVID or flu alone.

The point was echoed by Dr. Thomas Kayrouz, president of the Riverside Medical Group in Virginia, who told Virginia news station WVEC that symptoms of both infections at once seem to remain the same as having either of them separately.

What is certain is that both COVID and flu can cause severe disease, and so might a combined infection. Dr. Heather Harris, medical director at Hays Medical Center in Kansas where a case of flurona was recently reported, told Newsweek: "A combined infection in a patient that has not received either vaccination can cause severe illness.

"The upside is that there is a vaccination for both viruses. We urge the public to get vaccinated for both influenza and COVID as that can help prevent patients from becoming hospitalized from the illness."

COVID test
A stock photo shows a health worker carrying out a COVID test. Cases of people having COVID and flu at the same time have made headlines recently. RyanKing999/Getty