Lowdown on 'flurona'

Having flu and COVID-19 at the same time is nothing new

“Flurona” is a catchy new term to describe the not-so-new circumstance of people being infected with COVID-19 and influenza at the same time.

Concurrent infection with these two respiratory illnesses has been observed since the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic, says Omai Garner, PhD, director of clinical microbiology for UCLA Health.

His issue with “flurona” is the implication that there’s been “some kind of sci-fi mix of the two viruses into a new virus,” he says.

“That is make-believe,” Dr. Garner says. “Concurrent infection is not new. We know that both infections can exist inside a person at the same time. What can’t happen is that the viruses combine together into some super-virus or something fictional.”

Flu case numbers were much lower than usual during the 2020-2021 season, perhaps because of masking and social distancing in response to the pandemic. But as restrictions have relaxed, cases of influenza – and therefore cases of concurrent infection with the flu and COVID-19 –could climb.

Still, they are two separate illnesses. The best protection against them, according to health officials, is to be vaccinated against both viruses. The shots can even be administered at the same time.

Learn more about flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines.