KOLKATA: Covid attacks have left thousands with a weakened immune system, making them vulnerable to ‘Florona’ or a double infection of infleunza and Covid that may have severe symptoms like breathing distress, high fever and chest pain, experts have warned.
Many in Kolkata may already have suffered a bout of ‘Florona’ during the third wave, when a large number didn’t get tested for Covid. Doctors feel it could get increasingly difficult to identify Florona — which is not a Covid variant — as the CoV2 virus turns weaker.
The WHO has confirmed that co-infection of Covid and flu is indeed possible and the best way to avoid such a condition is to get both Covid and influenza shots.
A dual bout could be severe even if not fatal, said CMRI Hospital director of pulmonology Raja Dhar. “Both Covid and influenza viruses infiltrate our system the same way with similar impact. In fact, the next Covid variant, if it hits, could be as mild or strong as its influenza counterpart. But when they strike together, the resultant symptoms could double,” he said.
Dhar added that he came across four cases of Florona during the third wave. “These patients had slightly more pronounced symptoms than the rest suffering from Omicron, so we did a test. They had co-infection and took longer to recover,” he said.
Some may have a dual attack: Docs
Dhar said Florona could be dangerous for the elderly and the comorbid. Influenza cases will persist even when a Covid wave strikes, said IPGMER professor Diptendra Sarkar. “A small percentage is likely to have a dual attack which is difficult to detect for tests will now be infrequent. Symptoms of a dual attack could be very similar to either a Covid infection or influenza but it could take longer for the patient to recover. Comorbid patients need to guard against it,” said Sarkar.
Covid and influenza affect the respiratory system, but there are differences between the way flu and Covid impact and manifests themselves.
Symptoms of Florona may include high fever, consistent chest pain or constriction, shortness of breath and loss of appetite. It can also lead to a state of confusion and anxiety.
Covid reduces immunity so we need to guard against a simultaneous influenza attack, cautioned Peerless Hospital director of clinical research Subhrojyoti Bhowmick. The next wave could strike within a month and if it does, it will coincide with the season of viruses, he warned. “Viruses other than infleunza, too, are active during this period. It could be severe in some cases, especially for the immunocompromised. This is also the time when chicken pox is common. So, the next wave could see a spate of Florona cases, which, unfortunately, will remain mostly undetected and clinicians will have to rely on symptoms to gauge dual attacks,” said Bhowmick.
While Florona is not a new variant, the occurrence might be indicative of a weakened immune system under attack from two virus infections, said experts. “It could be more frequent now a things have returned to normal and transmission will be faster when the next wave strikes. We may also see patients getting infleunza soon after recovering from Covid,” said RN Tagore Hospital intensivist Sauren Panja.

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