PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With flu season around the corner as coronavirus continues to circulate, what happens if you get both together?
“The two viruses being together is not going to be a good thing,” says Dr. Sunjay Mannan of AHN Family Medicine. “The big question is, is it going to be more harmful than one alone?”
Out of 27 million cases of coronavirus, only about a dozen had the flu at the same time. With so few documented cases, there’s no way to know for sure what would happen, but there are a few possibilities. One is having both together could seem like a single illness.
“It will present as fever, chills, body aches, both of them,” says Dr. Mannan. “We may actually see more flu this year because people are going to be wanting to be tested more.”
Or having both could result in having a more severe illness than just having one.
“Both viruses have a predilection towards the lungs,” Dr. Mannan said. “So if you have this inflammatory process because of the influenza that’s already revved up, and then all of a sudden COVID-19, a new pathogen arises. My gut feeling is with two viral processes, specifically a new novel one, it’s not going to be good for the body.”
Or having one and then getting the other may result in the second illness being milder.
“Having your innate immune response already revved up absolutely could be protective,” Mannan said.
There’s little experience about what to expect with the two infections together. But there is a vaccine against one of them.
“The flu shot for healthy people, it’s not about them, it’s about the community,” Dr. Mannan says. “If you’re on the fence about it, this may be one year that you’re not sure what those two together are going to do, maybe it will push people toward getting the flu shot.”
As we try to keep the pandemic under control with social distancing and masks, we may find that we have less flu this year to go along with coronavirus.