Flu-rona? Yes, it’s possible to get influenza and COVID at the same time

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — COVID-19 and influenza are simultaneously circulating, and that’s putting the United States up against a double respiratory threat this season.

But, is it possible to get infected with both viruses at the same time?

According to doctors the answer is yes.

Although not a medical term, physicians are calling it “flu-rona.” It’s when a coronavirus and influenza infection collide resulting in a coinfection.

News 8 spoke with Indianapolis Dr. Brian Dixon, who says flu-rona shouldn’t cause alarm. It’s very rare and makes up about 3% of all patient cases, but it more likely if a person is unvaccinated.

“Each disease is serious by itself,” Dixon said. “So, a double infection is going to feel like you’ve had the worst cold you’ve ever had for sure. And depending on your profile, you may be at higher risk of hospitalization and death because each disease puts people in the hospital and kills people every year.”

The symptoms, Dixon says, are similar and include fever, cough and fatigue making it difficult to distinguish between the two viruses without testing. Fortunately, he says, many providers and hospitals are testing for both diseases.

Dixon also says the prevention measures are the same for both. Getting vaccinated, wearing a mask and staying home if feeling ill.

Dr. Jerome Adams discusses ‘flu-rona’

Dr. Jerome Adams told News 8 Friday that it’s rare but scientifically possible to have the coronavirus and influenza at the same time, and the best way to protect against it is to be vaccinated.

“So, get vaccinated. You’re going to decrease the chances to almost nil that you will get both at the same time and if you do happen to get flu-corona, which is a made-up term but still something that can happen to us, then you’ll you’ll get through it a lot easier if you are vaccinated.

How to read CDC guidance

Adams also talked about new guidance for isolation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noting that “it has been a confusing week for people.”

“The former guidance said that if you had tested positive for COVID, you needed to isolate for 10 days, period. Point blank, the CDC that changed that. That guidance is based on some science that tells us that about 85% of people on average who are infected are no longer infectious after Day 5.

“Now, here’s the problem. We’ve got record cases, over 100,000 cases a day (in the United States), and 15% of people are going to be infectious after Day 5. And so, that guidance, even from the CDC revised down to five days, says it’s important that you wear a mask when you go out afterward.

“But here’s what I want people to know. If you can get your hands on a rapid test, then it is important for you to try to take that rapid test before you leave isolation because you don’t want to expose other people. You don’t want to expose your own family. If you can’t take that rapid test, if you can’t find one and you need to go out, then please make sure you’re wearing a mask and preferably an N-95, a high-quality mask, at all times. Because at the end of the day, none of us wants to infect our family, our friends and people around us.”

Adams also talked about how the daily cases are being tracked, especially since people have an increased chance to get the omicron variant versus the delta variant. The former U.S. surgeon general and WISH-TV medical expert said people should now be following the number of hospitalizations rather than the number of cases, or infections.