What We Know About Flurona and Symptoms of COVID Vs Flu

An instance of someone catching COVID-19 and flu at the same time has made headlines over the past couple of days, with the phenomenon reportedly dubbed flurona.

The case occurred in Israel in an unvaccinated pregnant woman who was later released from hospital in good condition, The Times of Israel reported.

While the case received attention, this is not the first time that health experts have considered the possibility of people catching COVID-19 and flu at the same time.

According to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) flu season FAQ page, last updated in October 2021, "it is possible [to] have flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses, and COVID-19 at the same time."

And as far back as November 2020, Dr Gabriel Neal, director at the Texas A&M University Health Family Care Clinic, told the Texas A&M Health Talk podcast that "you can certainly have coronavirus and influenza at the same time."

Experts are still studying how common it is. The CDC notes that some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, which can make it hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone.

However, internal medicine physician Dr Jorge Rodriguez told CNN this week regarding having flu and COVID-19 simultaneously: "The fever may be worse. The shortness of breath may be worse. The loss of smell and taste could be worse. And on top of all that, it could last longer."

Compared with flu, COVID-19 can cause more serious illness in some people, take longer to show symptoms, and cause people to be contagious for longer, the CDC states.

Common symptoms of both include fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches, headache, vomiting and diarrhea, and—although this has been more frequent in coronavirus cases—change in or loss of taste or smell, the CDC adds.

According to The Times of Israel, the Israeli health ministry has been studying the case of flurona to see whether a combination of the two viruses caused more severe illness.

Dr Neal told the Health Talk podcast in 2020 that there were a lot of unknowns regarding what effect COVID-19 and flu might have on someone if they caught them at the same time or even back-to-back, but added that "it's pretty reasonable to think having two serious respiratory illnesses in the same winter would be bad."

Concerns about flu cases have emerged this year with the CDC noting on the week ending December 25, 2021 that seasonal flu activity in the U.S. was increasing.

In addition, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said that in the week commencing 13 December the number of flu cases in the European Region was above what would normally be expected.

It's raised concerns about a so-called 'twindemic,' in which health systems are forced to cope with people ill with flu and people ill with COVID-19.

This didn't happen in the U.S. in the 2020/2021 winter, since flu cases remained extremely low because public health measures that were put in place to battle COVID-19 at that time also effectively prevented the spread of flu, said Eili Klein, Ph.D., associate professor of emergency medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in a press release.

People are being encouraged to get a flu vaccine in order to prevent illness.

The CDC notes that while it's good to get vaccinated in September or October before flu starts spreading fast, people can still get vaccinated later since flu commonly peaks in February and significant activity can continue into May.

COVID test
A person getting a COVID-19 test in New York City on December 27. Experts say it's possible to get COVID-19 and flu at the same time as flu cases rise. Scott Heins/Getty