FLORONA: WHEN CORONA AND INFLUENZA COME TOGETHER
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With the recent spike in Coronavirus cases of the Omicron variant, a new concern has emerged - Florona.
Florona is a mix of the Coronavirus and the flu. Florona is not a new variant but a co-infection of the COVID-19 and influenza virus. As respiratory diseases, Florona may manifest symptoms like a runny nose, persistent cough, and loss of taste or smell.
Currently, co-infection with the flu and COVID-19 is rare but is likely to increase in frequency as flu season nears, and the Omicron variant continues to be highly contagious.
Vaccination against both the COVID-19 and influenza virus can reduce the risk of severe illness and even death. Taking preventive measures, such as masking and social distancing, is also a tried and tested method of reducing the spread of Florona.
Keep reading to learn more about Florona, how it is spread, who is at risk, and its various treatment options.
Florona is a co-infection caused by the Coronavirus and influenza virus. A co-infection occurs when a patient is diagnosed with more than one pathogen at the same time. Co-infections are more common than you think, and you have likely had a co-infection at some point.
Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association had identified COVID-19 patients who were infected with other respiratory viruses. These viruses included rhinovirus, enterovirus, and adenovirus, all of which can produce cold or flu-like symptoms.
Dr. SN Aravinda, an internal medicine consultant from Aster RV Hospital, states that different strains of viruses cause the simultaneous infection of the flu and COVID-19. Head of infectious diseases at ProHealth N.Y. Daniel Griffin has indicated that Florona may go undetected because of the lack of medical resources during the pandemic.
No, Florona is not another variant of the Coronavirus, nor is it a newly discovered disease. Florona disease occurs when both the SARS-CoV-2 and the influenza virus are present in the body simultaneously.
However, the Florona double infection cases may rise as the Omicron variant continues to surge worldwide.
The first case of Florona occurred in the United States in early 2020. Infectious disease experts ran a Coronavirus test on a man who tested positive for influenza. The man, his wife, and their two children were positive for both flu and COVID-19.
Research conducted among COVID-19 patients in China studied the occurrence of co-infections. Researchers found that of the 257 corona patients, 7 also had influenza. Another study conducted in a COVID-19 hospital in China revealed that 1 in 8 patients were infected with influenza and Coronavirus together.
Israel’s Ministry of Health has also recently confirmed their first case of Florona. It was detected in an unvaccinated, pregnant woman entering Rabin Medical Centre. The patient’s symptoms of Florona were mild, and she was released from the hospital later on in good general condition.
Public health experts state that cases of Florona may become common, with fewer people getting flu shots and communities opening up with fewer pandemic restrictions.
Once a healthy person becomes infected with Florona, it typically takes around 2 to 10 days for the symptoms to appear.
As respiratory diseases, flu and COVID-19 share similar symptoms, such as
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of smell or taste
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in the chest
- High temperature (above 38 °C)
However, the double infection may cause severe symptoms, such as pneumonia, myocarditis, and respiratory complications. Healthcare experts recommend seeking immediate medical care if you experience flu-like symptoms and respiratory problems.
Influenza and COVID-19 are both respiratory diseases. When an infected person breathes, speaks, sneezes, or coughs, they release droplets containing the virus. These droplets can land near or on people close by. People might also come in contact with contaminated surfaces and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth.
While infection with both the flu and Corona together is not specific to any age, certain groups have a higher risk of developing severe disease and complications from the viruses:
- Older adults
- Pregnant women and women who have recently given birth
- Patients with chronic medical conditions (cardiac, pulmonary, renal, liver, neurologic, or metabolic diseases)
- Patients with immunosuppressive conditions (HIV/AIDS, malignancy, or patients undergoing chemotherapy or steroids)
Vaccination is an essential factor in preventing both COVID-19 and influenza. COVID-19 vaccines have been proven safe and effective against severe illness caused by the Coronavirus. However, they do not protect against the flu. Likewise, the flu vaccine also does not protect you against the Coronavirus.
Getting both jabs can prevent severe symptoms and hospitalization from Florona. The WHO recommends vaccination for all age groups, particularly the elderly, people with underlying health conditions, and healthcare workers. For younger children, the Coronavirus vaccine may be given together with their scheduled flu shot.
Taking precautions can further decrease your risk of becoming infected with Florona and spreading the disease. The same measures you use to prevent the spread of Corona also work against the flu.
Statistics show that the United States recorded only around 2,000 cases of the flu from 2020 to 2021. Data reveals that the numbers are much lower than the previous season.
Preventive measures against Florona include:
- Social distancing
- Frequent hand washing
- Wearing of mask
- Avoid crowded and poorly ventilated areas
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Use tissues to cough or sneeze and immediately dispose of it
According to WHO, treatments for flu and COVID-19 are different.
Patients with mild cases of Florona may be treated at home. Medical facilities have various treatment options for severely ill patients with COVID-19, such as oxygen, corticosteroids, IL6 receptor blockers, and respiratory support like ventilators.
Antiviral drugs as a treatment for influenza can decrease the risk of severe complications and death, particularly in high-risk groups.
A representative of the Israeli National Advisory Committee stated that there is not enough data on the hospitalization rates of patients infected with Florona compared to patients with only one virus.
A significant concern lies in curbing the spread of Florona to prevent the strain on global health care systems, specifically during flu season.
While there is no need to panic, the co-infection of Coronavirus with influenza may increase the risk of severe illness in unvaccinated people and people with poor immunity as compared to vaccinated individuals.
Vulnerable individuals, including the elderly, pregnant, immunocompromised, and healthcare workers, have a lower immunity against seasonal flu and the Coronavirus, posing a threat to the immune system of these high-risk groups.
Michael Osterholm, head of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, had announced that Florona is nothing to worry about.
Respiratory co-infections are not a new discovery. With the nearing flu season and more people easing up on their pandemic restrictions, more individuals may be co-infected with respiratory pathogens.
Health experts urge everyone to continue taking precautions against the Coronavirus, which has also proven to cut down flu cases. Vaccination and preventive measures like wearing masks and social distancing are simple but effective interventions to reduce the spread of Florona.
If you’re not already vaccinated, take the first chance you get. The best COVID-19 vaccine is the one that is available to you the soonest.
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- Rates of Co-infection Between SARS-CoV-2 and Other Respiratory Pathogens | Infectious Diseases | JAMA | JAMA Network
- Omicron & Delta have a flu friend - florona. Be wary of the fiend. Get your annual shot.
- 'Flurona' Isn't New, and it's Not Something to Worry About - Bloomberg
- The Double-Whammy COVID-Flu
- Co-infection with respiratory pathogens among COVID-2019 cases
- What Happens When COVID-19 Collides With Flu Season? | Geriatrics
- Israel detects the first case of 'Florona' disease, a double infection of COVID19 and influenza
- What is 'flurona,’ and how serious is it? - CNN
- Florona disease - double-infection of the COVID-19 and influenza
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Similarities and differences between COVID-19 and Influenza
- How Bad Will The Flu Season Be This Winter? We Have a Choice - The Atlantic
- 'Flurona,' When COVID Meets The Flu
- Characteristics and Clinical Outcomes of Children and Adolescents Aged 18 Years Hospitalized with COVID-19 — Six Hospitals, United States, July–August 2021 | MMWR
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