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‘Flurona’ is just a new buzzword, not new strain of COVID-19 or new phenomenon

PolitiFact | Contracting both viruses at once does not appear to pose additional risk for otherwise healthy people.
People who live in cities like Columbus where masks are required indoors might be slightly less likely to catch the flu this year, but local health experts doubt a city's mask mandate will be enough to stem the tide altogether and say the best defense is to get a flu shot.
People who live in cities like Columbus where masks are required indoors might be slightly less likely to catch the flu this year, but local health experts doubt a city's mask mandate will be enough to stem the tide altogether and say the best defense is to get a flu shot. [ Tribune News Service ]
Published Jan. 6|Updated Jan. 7

If there is one thing that hasn’t been lacking during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s new lingo that the world has had to learn, from omicron to PCR.

Now comes the latest entry into the lexicon: “flurona.”

The term sounds like it could be describing a new, mutant strain of coronavirus. In reality, though, it is simply a buzzword used to describe testing positive for two distinct viruses — influenza and COVID-19 — at the same time.

Social media users were quick to pounce on the new word and put a humorous spin on it. One Facebook post declared that influenza and COVID-19 “done had a baby!! We finna die.”

Other posts muddied the waters by not clearly indicating that flurona is not a single virus — such as one tweet that mentioned Los Angeles’ first case of flurona and called it “a combination of influenza and coronavirus.”

Flurona just a buzzword, not a medical term

Both posts falsely imply that flurona is a new strain of coronavirus that merges two separate viruses into one, and one of the posts jokingly mentions dire outcomes. But the term flurona is “more cute than medically important,” said Dr. Stuart Ray, an infectious-diseases expert and professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Both influenza and COVID-19 are infectious respiratory diseases, and symptoms for both include cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, headache and fatigue, according to the World Health Organization.

Contracting the two viruses at once does not appear to pose additional risk for otherwise healthy people, Ray said. “There is no evidence that this particular combination is especially severe or complicated,” he said, though he said data is limited so far.

Dr. Jeffrey Shaman is a professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health whose research group has studied symptom severity among patients who have multiple infections. He told NBC New York that when common respiratory viruses are combined, “We generally didn’t see… that they were particularly manifesting with more severe symptoms.” He added, “We will have to see, though, with the flu and coronavirus.”

As with COVID-19 alone, the caveat is that certain vulnerable populations are at increased risk of developing severe disease if they contract both influenza and COVID-19 at the same time. Those at highest risk include older people and people with serious health problems such as heart or lung conditions, compromised immune systems, obesity or diabetes.

The word ‘flurona’ is new, not the phenomenon

Co-infections now referred to as flurona have recently been detected in several countries, including the United States, Israel, Brazil, the Philippines and Hungary. Simultaneously infections with both influenza and COVID-19 were detected in patients as early as the first half of 2020, Ray said.

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And while the phenomenon of co-infection isn’t new, “the cute term may be,” he said.

In 2020, because of social distancing and stay-at-home measures, influenza cases fell steeply in many countries, including the United States. From September 2020 to May 2021, considered to be the flu season, there were 1,899 lab-confirmed cases of influenza in the U.S., compared with about 200,000 cases in a typical year.

This flu season is shaping up to be a more normal one, though, with cases on the rise, according to PBS.

Similar transmission for influenza and COVID-19

Since both influenza and COVID-19 viruses are circulating, “co-infections are pretty likely,” Ray said.

“These viruses are transmitted in much the same way, so people at risk for one are at risk for both.”

Both are transmitted through droplets and aerosols dispersed through activities such as coughing, sneezing, speaking and singing.

But vaccinations are available to protect against spread and serious illness from both viruses — and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises they can be administered at the same time. Other measures to prevent infection also are similar for both viruses and include maintaining appropriate physical distance from others; avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated settings; opening doors and windows for ventilation; and wearing a well-fitted mask, according to the WHO.

The agency advises that vaccination is the most important tool to protect against severe illness and death from both influenza and COVID-19.

• • •

How to get tested

Tampa Bay: The Times can help you find the free, public COVID-19 testing sites in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties.

Florida: The Department of Health has a website that lists testing sites in the state. Some information may be out of date.

The U.S.: The Department of Health and Human Services has a website that can help you find a testing site.

• • •

How to get vaccinated

The COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5 and up and booster shots for eligible recipients are being administered at doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores and public vaccination sites. Many allow appointments to be booked online. Here’s how to find a site near you:

Find a site: Visit vaccines.gov to find vaccination sites in your ZIP code.

More help: Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline.

Phone: 800-232-0233. Help is available in English, Spanish and other languages.

TTY: 888-720-7489

Disability Information and Access Line: Call 888-677-1199 or email DIAL@n4a.org.

• • •

More coronavirus coverage

KIDS AND VACCINES: Got questions about vaccinating your kid? Here are some answers.

BOOSTER SHOTS: Confused about which COVID booster to get? This guide will help.

BOOSTER QUESTIONS: Are there side effects? Why do I need it? Here’s the answers to your questions.

PROTECTING SENIORS: Here’s how seniors can stay safe from the virus.

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