Demystifying “Flurona”: Dual Viral Infection Is More Common Than You May Think

Routine testing for body fever on population during COVID-19 crisis

Since the start of the year, you’ve undoubtedly been hearing more and more about “Flurona.” You may be asking yourself, “Is this even possible? Why are we seeing this now? What can I do to protect myself and my loved ones?” 

We’re taking time to clear up some of these questions and, hopefully, equip you with the knowledge to stay calm and stay healthy.

Is “Flurona” a real condition? Is it a new COVID-19 variant?

“Flurona” is real, but it is not a new COVID-19 variant. It is also not a distinct disease in its own right. “Flurona” is simply a term used to describe what happens when a person contracts influenza and COVID-19 at the same time. 

As influenza and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are both respiratory viruses, infection with one actually increases susceptibility to the other. Viruses are opportunistic, meaning that while a person’s immune system is ramping up to deal with one viral infection, another type of virus can slip in and take up residence. 

This is called dual infection, and it happens all the time.

Has this happened before?

Yes, and it occurs with non-respiratory viruses as well.

In 2015, there was a now infamous outbreak of HIV in a small southern Indiana town among a group of injection drug users. Many of these users contracted Hepatitis C by sharing needles used for their drug injections, some of whom also contracted HIV

Dual infection can even occur with different variants of the same virus. In 2007, a man in New York City was HIV “superinfected,” meaning he was infected with more than one variant of the HIV virus. This contributed to his virus being resistant to most available treatments at the time. 

It’s no surprise then that case reports of patients infected with both influenza virus and SARS-CoV-2 have arisen. This started with a case report at the beginning of the year from Israel, where two pregnant women were diagnosed with both flu and COVID-19. 

Why haven’t we seen this with COVID-19 and the flu before?

As we enter the third year of the pandemic, you might be wondering why we’re just now hearing about “Flurona.” 

This probably has more to do with the fact that we saw a steep decline in influenza during the fall of 2020 and early spring of 2021. Many have attributed the relative absence of influenza during that time to improved hand washing and mask wearing, but that is likely just a piece of the puzzle.

Limited travel, particularly between the northern and southern hemispheres, is another likely factor. Influenza is a seasonal virus, affecting the northern and southern hemispheres at different times. So, with limited travel between the two hemispheres, influenza’s ability to move back and forth with the seasons was greatly limited. 

The combination of mask wearing, increased sanitization and significantly reduced travel likely curbed the spread of influenza during the first fall of the pandemic. However, during the late summer and fall of 2021, travel was not nearly as restricted, providing the influenza virus its seasonal opportunity. 

What can I do?

More than anything shocking or unusual, “Flurona” is simply an indicator of a more normal flu season in the midst of a continuing COVID-19 pandemic. To keep yourself and your loved ones as protected as possible, take advantage of existing influenza and COVID-19 vaccines, maintain proper hygiene practices and adhere to CDC guidelines.

Did you know you can test for both COVID-19 and the flu with a single test through Labcorp OnDemand?

 

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