Home / News / World /  COVID, Influenza coinfection can cause serious illness, death: Experts warn of new strain. 2 key facts

Patients with both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time are at much greater risk of severe disease and death compared with patients who have COVID-19 alone or with other viruses, a new study has revealed. In fact, “Patients with co-infection of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, and influenza viruses were over four times more likely to require ventilation support and 2.4 times more likely to die than if they only had COVID-19." And the authors also revealed that it is extremely important to get vaccinated against both viruses to avoid coinfection. 

The study conducted by the team from the University of Edinburgh, University of Liverpool, Leiden University and Imperial College London has been published in the journal, 'The Lancet'.

Cases increase as countries decrease containment measures

Professor Kenneth Baillie, Professor of Experimental Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said, “We found that the combination of COVID-19 and flu viruses is particularly dangerous. This will be important as many countries decrease the use of social distancing and containment measures. 

"We expect that COVID-19 will circulate with flu, increasing the chance of co-infections. That is why we should change our testing strategy for COVID-19 patients in hospital and test for flu much more widely."

Adding to this Professor Calum Semple, Professor of Outbreak Medicine and Child Health at the University of Liverpool, warns that both the viruses will start circulating simultaneously during the flu season. 

"We were surprised that the risk of death more than doubled when people were infected by both flu and COVID-19 viruses. It is now very important that people get fully vaccinated and boosted against both viruses, and not leave it until it is too late," he added.

Vaccination against COVID and flu is the key

Researchers said that the findings show the need for greater flu testing of COVID-19 patients in hospital and highlight the importance of full vaccination against both COVID-19 and the flu.

Elaborating on this, Professor Peter Openshaw, Professor of Experimental Medicine at Imperial College London, said, "Being infected with more than one virus is not very common but it's important to be aware that co-infections do happen. The vaccines that protect against COVID-19 and flu are different, and people need both."

He further added, "The way that these two infections are treated is also different so it's important to test for other viruses even when you have a diagnosis in someone who is hospitalised with a respiratory infection. This latest discovery by the ISARIC consortium again adds significantly to improving the way we manage patients."

(With inputs from agencies)

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