COVID and flu: can you get them both at the same time?

A co-infection of COVID and influenza can be difficult to detect without testing.

Sarah Tew / CNET

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After a 2020-2021 flu season that saw an unprecedented decline in annual cases, flu cases rebounded in 2021-22, raising concerns over a COVID-19 and flu “duendemic”. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1,804 people were hospitalized for flu in the week ending January 8. infected throughout the 2020-2021 flu season.

One difference this year is that the current flu shot appears to fall short of the dominant flu strain. “It looks like a serious discrepancy from our lab studies,” Scott Hensley, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, told CNN.

According to the CDC, a less effective flu vaccine, combined with the lifting of blockages and mask mandates, could bring 2021-2022 back to a more typical flu season, with millions of Americans getting the flu and tens of thousands of people. they die of it.

What’s worse than catching the flu? A co-infection of influenza and COVID-19 at the same time. Healthcare professionals around the world have begun to report cases of patients contracting COVID-19 and influenza at the same time, a phenomenon dubbed “flurona” that can pose additional risks for those with underlying health problems.

After Israel reported its first case of flurona on January 2, an unvaccinated teenager in California was reported on January 5, to CBS Los Angeles. Since then, other cases have emerged in Texas, Kansas, Mississippi and North Carolina.

“For generally healthy people, the combination could cause illnesses that keep them at home and in bed for a while, making them feel pretty sick,” Dr. Nancy Gin, vice president and quality manager for Kaiser Permanente Southern, told The Orange County Register. California. “For people with existing high-risk medical conditions such as diabetes or heart or lung disease, the result could be ICU admission and potentially death.”

That’s why getting both a flu shot and a COVID vaccine (ea Recall of the COVID) it’s important. Being infected with both respiratory disorders simultaneously can be “catastrophic to the immune system,” Dr. Adrian Burrowes, a professor of family medicine at the University of Central Florida, told CNN.

Read on for everything you need to know about the flu and COVID-19 this year. What’s more, here’s which one side effects of the flu shot you may encounter and why epidemiologists suggest taking both a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu shot.

How effective is this year’s flu shot?

Vaccine manufacturers monitor which flu strains are currently in circulation and predict that they are more likely to become the dominant ones during the next flu season. They use this data to produce the annual flu vaccine, using three or sometimes four of the most likely strains.

The effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies greatly from year to year, from 19% effectiveness in the 2014-2015 season to 60% in 2010-2011.

Last year, when about half of U.S. adults and children got vaccinated against the flu, the vaccine was 39 percent effective at preventing infection, according to the CDC. Thanks to an effective vaccine and COVID-19 mitigation measures, the number of influenza cases reported during the 2020-2021 season has been so low that it almost seems like a typo: only 2,038 cases of influenza, compared to 38 millions cases reported in the 2019-2020 season.

Due to last year’s incredibly mild flu season, vaccine manufacturers had less information to use to develop this year’s vaccine. They created a vaccine containing four probable variants, known as the quadrivalent flu vaccine, to increase the chances of nailing the dominant strain this year.

“There was enough data to make a good educated guess,” LJ Tan, chief strategy officer for the Immunization Action Coalition, said in October. At the time, Tan said experts were confident we “got it right.”

But more recent research suggests they were out of place, as a mutated form of the H3N2 variant of influenza A, called 2a2, became the dominant strain.

According to the CDC, the vast majority of flu strains detected so far this season are the 2a2 variant of influenza A, which occurs primarily in children and young adults between the ages of 5 and 24. In November, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported a rapid increase in the mutated H3N2 strain at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, with 745 laboratory-confirmed cases between October 6 and November 19.

If it’s a bad match, why should I care about a flu shot?

Although the vaccine appears less suitable for the flu this year, medical experts still highly recommend the flu shot for anyone 6 months or older. Numerous studies have shown that even a poorly matched vaccine can greatly reduce the severity of the flu. According to the CDC, getting vaccinated for the flu can reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor by 40 to 60 percent.

“Studies have clearly shown that seasonal flu vaccines consistently prevent hospitalizations and deaths even in years when there are large antigenic mismatches,” the authors wrote in a prepress report.

A pediatric influenza case study published Jan.13 in Clinical Infectious Diseases showed that even “mismatched” vaccines provide significant benefits, reducing the risk of life-threatening disease by nearly 75%.

When should i get the flu shot?

The short answer is: now. In the Northern Hemisphere, the flu season usually runs from October to May. But the flu virus is less concerned with timing and more with spreading as widely as possible. This year’s timing may be less predictable, experts warn, given last year’s mild flu season and our changing behaviors around the COVID-19 pandemic.

Don’t try to schedule the flu shot for when the flu hits. To be ready, experts advise, do your shot as soon as possible.

“We have a normal time when we expect the flu,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a professor in the Health Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of California, San Francisco. “But this year could be atypical or drag on longer, so that’s why people need to be prepared.”

A similar change in the timing of a seasonal virus infection occurred this summer, when the United States and Japan saw a spike in respiratory syncytial virus infections in schoolchildren, Chin-Hong said. This is because students were distance schooled the winter before, when RSV infections normally occur, and they were not exposed to the virus and did not develop immunity. Instead, this allowed the virus to spread in the summer.

Do I need an appointment for a flu shot?

If you’re used to walking to the pharmacy, hospital, or local doctor’s office to get a flu shot whenever it’s more convenient, you may find that you need to make an appointment this year, as providers struggle to treat COVID patients. maintaining social contacts distancing protocols and meeting the demand for COVID tests and vaccinations.

Walgreens Chief Medical Officer Kevin Ban recommends scheduling COVID-19 and flu vaccinations online.

“We’re doing what we can to make it easier for people to schedule their appointments and get their vaccinations hassle-free,” Ban said, adding that you can also call Walgreens toll-free to make an appointment.

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A flu shot can help prevent the worst symptoms of the disease.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Is it safe to get COVID and flu vaccines at the same time?

The CDC has confirmed that it is safe to undergo the flu shot and the COVID vaccination in the same session. (Vaccine maker Moderna is currently working on a combined COVID-19 / influenza vaccine, but that combo won’t be available for some time.)

And don’t worry about more serious side effects with a four-part flu shot – whether the injection uses three or four components, the typical side effects it should be the same, said Chin-Hong, the UCSF doctor. These include redness or swelling at the injection site, muscle pain, mild fever, headache, and nausea, which should resolve after a few days.

I want more? We debunked nine myths about the flu shot and explains how to tell if you have the flu, COVID, or a common cold.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as medical or health advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified health care practitioner with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goal.

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