Stop panicking over "flurona"

The COVID x flu collabo no one asked for is an unfortunate possibility, but nothing to freak out about.

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After Israel detected two cases of simultaneous COVID and the flu infections, many media outlets were quick to smash the panic button and give her a scandalous nickname: flurona.

In the days since, Mx. Flurona has arrived in the U.S. and social media feed has been up in flames about how we’re entering the end of times (again). But how worried should we actually be about flurona? For now, the short answer is not very.

First off, it’s essential to understand what flurona is not: some monster COVID variant, a misconception that has been floating around on the Interwebs as Omicron — an actual COVID variant — wreaks havoc around the globe.

Flurona is simply when a person is unlucky enough to become infected with COVID and the flu at the same time, which scientists have always known could happen. A twindemic, which is the term scientists used for the dreaded flu-COVID collab, is in my opinion exponentially more terrifying and also the reason they encouraged all of us to get our flu shots this season.

What we’re seeing now is not new at all, but giving it a sexy/terrifying name is what is really freaking people out. Although flu seasons in the past couple years have been very mild because of widespread masking and social distancing, it’s likely that many people have been co-infected with COVID and the flu throughout the pandemic.

In February of 2020, for example, a man in New York tested positive for both the flu and COVID, according to the Washington Post, which would make that the first case of what we’re all nervous about this week. “It sounds like ‘sharknado,’” Saad B. Omer, the director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, told the New York Times. “But it’s not a known medical term.” So the creation of the term flurona itself is more pop science than actual science.

Although a simultaneous infection of COVID and the flu could be bad for the immune system and increase the chances of hospitalization for the unvaccinated, you would have to have pretty shitty luck if you’re vaccinated against both viruses and still get infected with both at the same time. That’s why Israel’s first recorded case of flurona was found in an unvaccinated woman and the only severe recorded cases of flurona are among those who, surprise surprise, are also not vaccinated.

Although flurona is still rare, that doesn’t mean you won’t get it, especially when you consider that Omicron is insanely contagious and our bodies have less protection against the flu since most of us didn’t get it last year. But flurona is not a run-naked-in-the-street-and-scream level threat and creating panic around it has been, in my opinion, very counterproductive. The best thing you can do is to get a COVID and flu shot if you haven’t already, mask up and wait for this winter wave to simmer down.