Dangerous combination: You can get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time

People aged six months and over should get a flu vaccine, Chief Medical Officer Sonya Bennett says.

People aged six months and over should get a flu vaccine, Chief Medical Officer Sonya Bennett says. Photo: Getty

Yes, you can get COVID-19 and influenza at the same time.

It even has a catchy name: ‘flurona’.

In March, a piece at The Conversation said that less than one per cent of COVID-19 patients also suffer with flu.

The article also said that the combination didn’t appear to make people sicker.

But these are early days.

In many parts of the world, influenza all but disappeared during the first two years of the pandemic.

Now it’s making a comeback and how it affects people, when in combination with COVID-19, is more complicated, and in some cases much more deadly.

The risk of death more than doubles

This week, a disturbing new study found that “COVID-19 mixed with flu increases risk of severe illness and death”.

In fact, the risk of death more than doubles, and patients are four times more likely to end up on a ventilator.

The study focused on hospital patients. So it might be a case that influenza turbo-charges severe cases of COVID-19.

Researchers say the findings “show the need for greater flu testing of COVID-19 patients in hospital and highlight the importance of full vaccination against both COVID-19 and the flu”.

As The New Daily reported in late March, complacency about getting a flu vaccine is worrying public health experts.

We wrote: “There are concerns that people are suffering vaccine fatigue. Having been jabbed up to three times so far for COVID-19, Australians may skip the flu vaccine because … well, they’ve had enough of needles.”

Clearly, the word needs to get out that a combination of the two viruses can be catastrophic.

The new study

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh, University of Liverpool, Leiden University and Imperial College London, made the findings in a study of more than 305,000 hospitalised patients with COVID.

They focused on adults who had been hospitalised with the virus in the UK between February 6, 2020 and December 8, 2021.

The first step was to identify 6965 patients who had developed COVID-19 and a separate viral infection of any sort.

Of these, 227 had the influenza virus (as well as the coronavirus) and they experienced significantly more severe outcomes.

These patients were more than “four times more likely to require ventilation support and 2.4 times more likely to die than if they only had COVID-19”.

Dr Kenneth Baillie, Professor of Experimental Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We found that the combination of … viruses is particularly dangerous. This will be important as many countries decrease the use of social distancing and containment measures.

“We expect that COVID-19 will circulate with flu, increasing the chance of co-infections. That is why we should change our testing strategy for COVID patients in hospital and test for flu much more widely.”

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