VIRGINIA (WDVM) — It’s the classic sign of getting sick — you may have a cough, sneezing, fatigue and a temperature. Your next thought might be, ‘Is it COVID? Or the flu?’ Or… could it be both?
Although it’s not very common, local health officials in Northern Virginia are now saying patients may have “flurona.”
“It’s when someone has COVID and flu at the same time,” said Sean Morris, epidemiologist at the Prince William Health District.
Being sick with either the flu or COVID is miserable enough, but Morris says the co-infection can potentially make you feel even worse.
“You really don’t want to get two infections at the same time, especially in the same organ system,” said Morris. “Getting two respiratory systems like flu and COVID at the same time, you would likely get sicker than if you just had one.”
Health officials say “flurona” has come to the DMV region. Loudoun County Health Department Director, Dr. David Goodfriend, says local hospitals are seeing cases.
“As flu takes hold to a larger degree later in January and into February, we’re going to see more people co-infected,” said Goodfriend.
Both Goodfriend and Morris say precautionary measures, like vaccines, can help prevent catching the illnesses, but nothing is foolproof.
“Vaccination, unfortunately, is not perfect for either right now,” said Goodfriend. “Many folks who have been vaccinated for COVID are getting infected, fortunately with much milder illnesses. The same thing for the flu.”
The symptoms for COVID-19 and the flu are incredibly similar, so how can a patient be positive they have both infections?
“You only know you have both if you test positive for both,” said Morris. “There are early treatment options, so take to your providers about potential antivirals for COVID and flu.”
While you should remain catious, co-infection among coronavirus and COVID-19 is relatively low. The World Health Organization told Nexstar Media Group the frequency of these infections is .04% in the United States.
If you think you have “flurona,” health officials advise staying home to keep others safe. According to Morris, both the omicron variant and the flu are spread through close contact with others.