What are the risks of getting COVID-19 and the flu at the same time?

With fall around the corner and novel coronavirus cases still prevalent throughout the country, experts are bracing for what some have called a "twindemic" of COVID-19 and the flu.

a group of people holding a sign: People walk past free flu shot advertisements outside of drugstores on Aug. 19, 2020, in New York. © Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images People walk past free flu shot advertisements outside of drugstores on Aug. 19, 2020, in New York.

Although these are two very different viruses, experts are now exploring what might happen if people get COVID-19 and the flu at the same time, and whether being ill with one virus might make you more susceptible to the other.

"It is certainly possible, although we aren't clear how coinfection occurs," said Dr. Jay Bhatt, an ABC News contributor and former chief medical officer of the American Hospital Association. "We will learn more as we get into the flu season."

"Limited data suggests that is possible, but much more work needs to be done," added Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist, ABC News Medical Contributor and Boston Children's Hospital's chief innovation officer.

MORE: What South Africa's flu season could mean for the US this fall

In all likelihood, being infected with both viruses at the same time would be more dangerous than just one. And experts warn that older Americans -- already more vulnerable to both COVID-19 and the flu -- may be particularly at risk. That's why, especially this year, older adults are strongly encouraged to get a flu shot.

"There have been cases of coinfection and the result is far worse than the impact of either of the viruses alone," Brownstein said.

A study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 20% of patients were infected with another respiratory virus in addition to COVID-19, including one who had the flu -- showing it is a possibility.

"We could see rising COVID cases during flu season and some of that may depend on how effective we are at maintaining consistency in our prevention behaviors we know work," said Bhatt.

a hand holding a piece of paper: In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 file photo, a patient receives an influenza vaccine in Mesquite, Texas. © Lm Otero/AP, File In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 file photo, a patient receives an influenza vaccine in Mesquite, Texas.

Although COVID and influenza are different viruses, they both spread between people in close contact, which occurs more often as the weather gets colder.

"Increased indoor interaction and decreased humidity are potential factors that lead to a broad rise in respiratory illness," said Brownstein. "The concern is that we have these rising epidemics at the same time posing both increased individual risk and a deepening strain on health care capacity."

However, limited evidence from Australia, which is in the midst of its own flu season, seems to indicate that social distancing for COVID-19 is helping curb the spread of the seasonal flu.

"There is a potential silver lining," said Brownstein, "that the current efforts around social distancing and mask wearing may have an impact on influenza transmission as well."

MORE: Fauci to David Muir: US in for ‘difficult time’ if COVID-19, flu outbreaks converge

When it comes to the effects of COVID-19 and influenza on children, more research is needed to see how likely it is for someone to become infected with COVID-19 and the flu at the same time.

Although most children appear to be relatively unharmed by COVID-19, they are more vulnerable to the seasonal flu.

"The risk of complications for healthy children is higher for flu compared to COVID-19," said Bhatt. "However, infants and children with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for both flu and COVID-19. We know that if you are immunocompromised and in close contact with people, you increase risk of transmission and being infected."

Another challenge this flu season is that while COVID-19 and the flu are very different viruses, they often create similar symptoms.

a group of people that are talking to each other: People walk past free flu shot advertisements outside of drugstores on Aug. 19, 2020, in New York. © Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images People walk past free flu shot advertisements outside of drugstores on Aug. 19, 2020, in New York.

"Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include fever or feeling feverish, chills, cough [or] shortness of breath or difficulty breathing," said Bhatt.

This could complicate an already strained health care system, as doctors and nurses try to discern whether patients have COVID-19 or the flu.

Recommendations for lessening the possibly significant impact of COVID during flu season is similar as in previous years: The flu vaccine is one of main tools to reduce the risk of getting the flu. The flu shot is recommended for children, adults and seniors, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend getting it in September and October -- although getting the flu shot late in the season is better than not at all.

MORE: Nevada lab confirms 1st coronavirus reinfection in the US

"While the flu vaccine is broadly recommended each year, this year public health is going to be making an extra push to increase uptake," said Brownstein. "Anything we can do to help protect our already strained health care system, the better."

Bhatt agreed that as we move into flu season, COVID-19 mitigation strategies will become more important than ever.

"Mask up, watch your distance and wash your hands," said Bhatt.

Alexis E. Carrington, M.D., is a dermatology research fellow at the University of California, Davis and a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit.


Video: CDC's COVID-19 testing guideline changes raise concern (ABC 7 Chicago)

UP NEXT
UP NEXT
Continue Reading
Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.
TOPICS FOR YOU
Feedback

Found the story interesting?

Like us on Facebook to see similar stories


Send MSN Feedback

We appreciate your input!

Please give an overall site rating:

动物老虎机压分技巧 辽宁11选5几点开始每天 华东15选5预测 幸运赛车全天计划软件 摆渡配资网介绍股票杠杆的再次管控的难题 安徽彩票快3走势图表 江苏快三官网下载安装 体彩大乐透玩法中奖方式 云南快乐十分选号口诀 江苏七位数最新开奖 大乐透复式计算器 江西快3基本走势一定牛 投资理财平台靠谱吗 上海11选5开奖结果走势图 湖北快3走势图表走 私募股权基金配资 凤凰时时彩平台手机版