Although it is uncommon to be infected with more than one virus such as COVID-19 and influenza, it is vital to be aware that co-infections do occur and it could be deadly.
Adults in hospitals with Covid-19 and the flu are at a substantially higher risk of severe illness and death than those with Covid-19 alone or with other viruses, says new study.
Experts discovered that patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, and influenza viruses were four times more likely to require ventilator support and 2.4 times more likely to die than those who simply had Covid-19.
The findings, according to the researchers, underline the need for more flu testing of Covid-19 patients in hospitals and the need for comprehensive vaccination against both Covid-19 and the flu.
The findings came from a study of more than 305,000 hospitalized patients with Covid-19 conducted by a team from the University of Edinburgh, University of Liverpool, Leiden University, and Imperial College London.
The study is the largest ever of individuals with Covid-19 and other endemic respiratory viruses, and it was conducted as part of the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium’s (ISARIC) Coronavirus Clinical Characterisation Consortium.
The researchers examined data from patients hospitalized with Covid-19 in the United Kingdom between February 6, 2020, and December 8, 2021.
For 6965 individuals with Covid-19, test findings for respiratory virus co-infections were documented. A total of 227 of them were infected with the influenza virus, and their outcomes were much worse.
“An influenza infection could give rise to a similar situation was already known, but less was understood about the outcomes of a double infection of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses,” says Dr. Maaike Swets.
“We found that the combination of Covid-19 and flu viruses is particularly dangerous,” adds Professor Kenneth Baillie.
“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,” highlights Professor Calum Semple.
“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,” adds Professor Peter Openshaw.
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