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New Year ushers in flurona — a rare and potentially deadly double infection of flu and COVID

In the first week of 2022, the first case of flurona, a rare new double infection of coronavirus and influenza, was diagnosed in a young, pregnant, unvaccinated Israeli woman, reports MedicalBrief. Late last year, Public Health England warned in an analysis in The BMJ that people who catch flu and COVID at the same time are twice as likely to die than those who only have coronavirus.

While the Israeli patient has so far exhibited only mild symptoms, her diagnosis has nevertheless sparked fears about the possibility of a new double infection on the rise. UK Health Security Agency chief executive, Dr Jenny Harries, warned last year that the UK could have a multi-strain flu, with lowered immunity, as COVID restrictions meant that levels of the virus were extremely low. The same situation prevails in other northern hemisphere countries, like the United States, which yesterday diagnosed a record 1m new COVID cases in a single day.

The Evening Standard reports that the Israeli patient is the first recorded case in the world. “She was diagnosed with the flu and coronavirus as soon as she arrived,” Professor Arnon Vizhnitser, director of the gynaecology department at Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva told the newspaper Hamodia.

“Both tests came back positive, even after we checked again. The disease is the same disease. Theyʼre viral and cause difficulty breathing since both attack the upper respiratory tract.” The patient is expected to be discharged on Thursday.

The Israeli Health ministry said on Wednesday (5 January) that it had charted a worrying rise in flu cases. Last week, a 31-year-old pregnant woman died from complications of influenza when she was nine months pregnant. Her son, delivered via Caesarean section, survived.

“Last year, we did not witness flu cases among pregnant or birthing women,” said Vizhnitser. “Today, we are seeing cases of both coronavirus and the flu that are starting to rear their head.”

Arnon Wiznitzer, director of the Beilinson Women's Department, said in the statement that they had treated the woman with a drug combination that targeted both corona and flu. “We are seeing more and more morbidity of influenza among the maternity population, along with cases of corona that mainly occur in women not vaccinated against corona and influenza. This is definitely a challenging time that in addition to the corona diseases we are increasingly dealing with flu.”

What are the symptoms?

The most common and obvious effects are likely to be a combination of those of COVID and influenza. The Israeli patient reportedly exhibited breathing difficulties and since Omicron already exhibits many of the same symptoms as flu or a cold, the main effects are likely to include a high temperature, fatigue, aches, sneezing, a dry cough and/or scratchy throat.

Vizhnitser confirmed that both infections are viral and cause respiratory difficulty. “The disease is the same disease,” he said. “Theyʼre viral and cause difficulty breathing as both attack the upper respiratory tract.”

How likely is it to spread?

Much about the infectiousness and seriousness of flurona remains unknown, but doctors said other cases are likely to emerge, a result of rising flu cases as restrictions ease, along with the fast spread of the Omicron variant.

“We are seeing more and more pregnant women with flu,” said Vizhnitser. “It is a great challenge dealing with a woman who comes in with a fever at childbirth, especially when you do not know if itʼs coronavirus or the flu, so you refer to them the same. Most of the illness is respiratory.”

 

Evening Standard article – Flurona: what we know so far about the rare new double infection (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Having flu at the same time as COVID doubles death risk — UK Health Security Agency

 

Mortality 20x higher in pregnant women with COVID but SAHPRA says no to vaccination

 

Zinc supplements may prevent respiratory tract infections and shorten duration — Trials meta-analysis

 

 

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