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Health experts say co-infections of COVID-19, influenza are possible

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 5:51 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 6, 2022 at 6:05 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - While COVID-19 cases remain high in Virginia, flu-like illnesses remain high as well. State and local health leaders say with both viruses spreading, the chance of getting them at the same time is happening.

It’s a double whammy many of us do not want to experience, but health experts said co-infection of the coronavirus and influenza is possible.

“It’s happened quite a bit actually,” said Karen Carle, the Senior Public Health Nurse for Immunizations at the Richmond Henrico Health District. “It’s something we want to avoid just because they’re both viruses that attack the respiratory system.”

It is why health leaders want you to be vigilant.

Some symptoms for COVID-19 and the flu are similar:

  • Fever or chills
  • Body aches
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches

However, Carle said currently, there is not a lot of proof that shows whether one makes the other worse.

“Common sense would say if you’ve got two viruses attacking the system at the same time that can’t be a good thing,” she added.

The Virginia Department of health does not track this co-infection.

While COVID-19 cases are reported daily, flu reports are different. The state uses a combination of influenza-lab reports and flu-like illnesses to analyze the level of infection; it has been listed as widespread for the last five weeks.

Due to the differences in reporting, a VDH spokesman said it is not feasible to track the combo.

“I mean most people who get the flu never even go and get tested,” Carle said. “I can’t remember the last time I had a flu test when I had the flu. So we can’t really track, it’s not something... it’s an endemic, a virus.”

While there have been lines of people waiting to get COVID tests, health leaders said if that test comes back negative and you’re still worried, reach out to your doctor.

“If your symptoms are worsening and you really feel like you’re not sure what’s going on, I would definitely go to your health care provider and they can do a flu test there and alleviate your worries,” Carle said.

Meanwhile, flu shots are available to anyone six months and older.

Health leaders said it is an added level of protection for kids who can’t get the COVID-19 vaccine yet, especially with the omicron variant.

“Children are more susceptible, very young children, and we already know very young children are more susceptible to the flu - it’s very dangerous for them,” Carle said.

You can get a COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same time. According to Carle, there are some studies have shown a stronger immune response to fight those infections if the vaccines are received around the same time.

Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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