As the Omicron variant spreads across America, experts warn about the possibility of flurona, which happens when you’re infected with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. 
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Unfortunately for parents, COVID-19 isn't giving us a break in 2022. The Omicron variant has been leading to record-breaking cases across the country. And now experts are warning about the possibility of "flurona"—infection with COVID-19 and influenza at the same time. 

On January 2, Israel reported its first case of flurona. The patient was an unvaccinated pregnant woman with mild symptoms, according to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva. This might be the first confirmed flurona case in the world, although experts suggest it's been happening throughout the pandemic, especially during the spring of 2020.

"Although not very common, it is very possible since they are two different viruses," notes Purvi Parikh, M.D., an allergist and immunologist with the Allergy and Asthma Network and co-investigator on the vaccine trials. "We definitely have already seen cases of this in the USA over the past two years."

Prevention notes that COVID-19 and influenza can both be deadly in severe cases, so naturally, flurona raises some red flags for parents. Keep reading to learn more about how flurona can happen, the symptoms to watch for, and more.

Will Flurona Happen in America? 

According to experts, we can expect to see some cases of flurona this year. That's because people can get infected with multiple respiratory illnesses—such as the flu and COVID-19—at the same time. 

"It is actually not uncommon for children to contract more than one virus at a time," says Kristina Deeter, M.D., pediatric intensivist and specialty medical officer for pediatric critical care medicine at Pediatrix Medical Group. "Just because your body is fighting one infection doesn't mean it cannot contract or get infected with others."

Flurona may be more likely this season because of the transmissible Omicron variant, which is spreading through the country at an alarming rate. The United States reported more than 1 million COVID-19 cases on January 3; the numbers are expected to rise even more in the coming weeks. And even though flu cases dropped last year because of masking and social distancing, they're starting to tick up again—possibly because health measures aren't practiced as strictly. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 4,514 flu cases during the week of December 18.

"Unfortunately, we will likely be dealing with a 'twindemic' over the next couple months," says Dr. Deeter. "Most respiratory viruses thrive in the cold months, so the hope is that by spring and summer, we will see relief (or a break) from these infections."

Soothing Sick Kids Girl Laying With Mother
Credit: kryzhov/Shutterstock

What Are the Symptoms of Flurona?

Because flurona is a combination of the coronavirus and influenza, you could technically have symptoms of both illnesses at once, says Dr. Parikh. Flurona will present differently for everyone—and as is the case with either virus, symptoms can range from mild to severe. Older adults and those with compromised immune systems might be at higher risk for complications. 

Some symptoms of flu and COVID tend to overlap. According to the CDC, coronavirus symptoms might include:

  • Fever 
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Fatigue
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Gastrointestinal issues (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)
  • Loss of taste or smell

On the other hand, the CDC says symptoms of the flu include

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Aches
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (especially in children)

Diagnosing and Treating Flurona

Say your child suddenly comes down with body aches, fever, and a runny nose.  How can you tell if they have COVID-19, the flu, or a combination of them? The best way to differentiate between illnesses is getting tested. "We'll make sure you are tested for both flu and COVID when getting a respiratory swab done," says Dr. Parikh.

Your child's doctor can also help you with a treatment plan. "Anyone experiencing new upper respiratory infection symptoms, and even more importantly fever, should consider themselves to be contagious. If you are young and healthy, it's best to stay home, quarantine if possible, stay hydrated," and take medication as needed for fever and aches," says Dr. Deeter. "If you have any trouble breathing—breathing faster, hurting to breathe, or frequent wet cough—then you should immediately be seen by a physician."

To help treat the flu, your child's doctor might prescribe an antiviral drug (Tamiflu), as long as its taken within the first 48 hours of symptoms. "This medication slows down the replication (dividing) of the virus and can make the illness less severe and decrease the length of time that you are sick," says Dr. Deeter.

How to Prevent Flurona in Children

Before you panic, remember that there's an easy way to prevent the flu and COVID-19: vaccination. Everyone 5 and older can get vaccinated against COVID-19. All available shots (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson) protect against severe illness—including against the Omicron and Delta variants. The influenza vaccine is available to everyone 6 and older, and it can prevent serious complications from the flu. Your child can even get the COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine at the same time, says the CDC.

Aside from vaccination, your family can practice other health precautions to lower your chances of getting COVID-19 and influenza. Practice social distancing, wear a mask in crowded indoor places, wash your hands office, and stay home if you're feeling sick.