What to Know
- The term 'flurona' was coined to indicate the presence of both influenza and coronavirus at the same time and does not indicate a distinct disease.
- A COVID testing site in Brentwood says a child returning from a family trip to Mexico tested positive for both influenza and coronavirus.
- Health officials had warned of the possibility of being infected simultaneously with both influenza and coronavirus, and encourage people to get vaccinated against both.
A COVID testing site says it has detected a case of "flurona," a co-infection of the flu and coronavirus, in Los Angeles County.
The case was detected four days ago at a testing site in Brentwood near the Getty Center. A child tested positive for both influenza and coronavirus after returning from a trip to Mexico, according to the testing company.
“It was a family visiting from Mexico, from Cabo San Lucas,” said Steve Farzam, of 911 COVID Testing. "Some very mild symptoms, almost could be easily confused with sinusitis."
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The LA County Department of Public Health said it's the first widely publicized case in LA County, but health officials say they’ve seen it before and it’s likely to become more common.
Health officials had warned of the possibility of being infected simultaneously with both influenza and coronavirus, and encouraged people to get vaccinated against both. So while the two illnesses are not new, the term "flurona" was coined to indicate the presence of both respiratory ailments at the same time and does not indicate a distinct disease.
The child who tested positive was tested for both flu and coronavirus with a swab at the Brentwood site.
Flu and COVID-19 will be circulating this winter in communities throughout Los Angeles County, the health department said. Both can cause serious illness and death.
"Concurrent infection with more than one respiratory virus is exceedingly common and there is no reason to expect that SARS-CoV-2 should be an exception to this rule," the Los Angeles County Health Department said in a statement. "We have seen SARS-CoV-2 and Influenza multiplex test results where both influenza and SARS-CoV-2 were positive."
The health department does not track such co-infections, so it's difficult to say how many cases there are in Los Angeles County.
"The best way to prevent concurrent infection with Influenza and SARS-CoV-2 is to get vaccinated with both Influenza and COVID-19 vaccines, which are both highly-effective and can be administered at the same time," the health department said in its statement.
The flu and coronavirus can cause similar symptoms that include fever, cough, fatigue, runny nose, sore throat and diarrhea and muscle and body aches. Flu and COVID can both be fatal. People with underlying health conditions are at higher risk.
The viruses are transmitted similarly — droplets and aerosols spread through coughs, sneezes, talking, singing and breathing.
The department said that some LA County COVID test sites are already also testing for Influenza A & B.
The county has a list of frequently asked questions here for more information about "flurona."
The number of COVID-19-positive patients in Los Angeles County surged well above the 2,000 mark Tuesday amid a spike in infections that has seen daily case numbers skyrocket over the past two weeks.
According to state figures, there were 2,240 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Tuesday, a jump from 1,994 on Monday. Of those patients, 303 were being treated in intensive care, an increase from 278 a day earlier.
The hospitalization number is the highest it has been since last February in the midst of another winter COVID surge. Due to rising patient numbers, the county Department of Public Health on Monday urged residents to avoid visiting hospital emergency rooms unless they urgently need emergency care.
The rising patient numbers, however, have led to concerns about the stability of the hospital system, with authorities saying staffing issues will limit hospitals' ability to rapidly expand patient capacity the way they did last winter, when COVID-positive patient numbers topped 8,000.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer insisted Tuesday that people being treated for COVID in intensive care units are overwhelmingly unvaccinated. She against said statistics show that even though vaccinated people can become infected, they are far less likely to become seriously ill.
According to the county, for the week of Dec. 15-28, unvaccinated people were 21 times more likely to wind up in an ICU than vaccinated people.
"Even as transmission surges, we are seeing that vaccines are doing what they were intended to do, which is protect people from getting severely ill due to COVID,'' Ferrer said in a statement. ``We are grateful to the 80% of eligible residents who have already received at least one dose of vaccine -- and we hope that the almost 2 million people who have yet to be vaccinated take time to talk with their health care provider to receive additional information about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.
"Choosing not to take the vaccine during this explosive winter surge is very risky since so many of those ill with COVID in the intensive care units at hospitals are unvaccinated, and tragically, some of these individuals will not survive,'' she said.
Editor's Note: The LA County Department of Public Health says it is not the first case of "flurona," but also that the department does not track or investigate individual cases of influenza.