A leading doctor is urging Australians to be vigilant for so-called “flurona” infections - as she dispels some common misconceptions.
Flurona made headlines earlier this month when a Victorian woman died after being diagnosed with both COVID and the flu.
Watch more on this story in the video above
Watch the latest News on Channel 7 or stream for free on 7plus >>
Experts say there’s a heightened possibility people could be infected simultaneously as we enter the winter months.
Dr Nirvana Luckraj, the Chief Medical Officer at national public health information service Healthdirect, told 7NEWS.com.au flurona was commonly misconceived as a new virus.
In reality, she said, it’s a “non-medical term” that means someone has flu and COVID at the same time.
“With COVID continuing to circulate in the community and cases still high in some states, combined with the predicted flu season we are expecting now that restrictions have eased, it’s quite possible that a person could have flu and COVID at the same time,” she said.
“It’s something we want to prevent as these are both potentially severe illnesses and combined would be particularly serious.”
Vaccination is the key to avoiding serious illness, she said.
But don’t expect your COVID jabs to have any impact on the flu.
“The flu vaccine is specifically designed for flu virus and COVID vaccines for COVID – they don’t protect against each other so it’s important to get both vaccines for best prevention this winter.
“Vaccines are one of the most important and simple measures we can take to keep ourselves, our families and communities healthy.”
Cases of the flu have been jumping across Australia, with COVID cases also remaining stubbornly high.
In New South Wales alone, there were 2000 cases of the flu reported in the week ending May 7, almost doubling from the week earlier.
School settings, in particular, are vulnerable to flu outbreaks, Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said.
“As with COVID-19, boarding schools are a high-risk setting for flu transmission. We’re strongly encouraging all students and staff in boarding schools to get their flu vaccine,” Chant said.
“Boarders with flu should be isolated from others until their symptoms resolve. If a school has three or more boarders with flu, they are urged to contact the local Public Health Unit for advice.”
But how do you know if you have the flu, COVID, or both?
Luckraj said there were many similarities, given they’re both contagious respiratory diseases.
However, COVID appears to be more contagious.
“You really can’t tell or self-diagnose by just symptoms alone, so it’s important to get tested for COVID to know for sure,” she said.
“If you are otherwise fit and healthy, there is usually no need to see a doctor if you have flu-like symptoms.
“However, if you have more severe symptoms such as breathing difficulties, an intense headache, are unable to keep down fluids or if you’re just concerned you should speak to your doctor or call Healthdirect to speak to a registered nurse who can help advise next steps.”
A recent study in the UK found flurona doubled the risk of death from either virus.
Dr Paul Griffin, Infectious Diseases Expert at the University of Queensland, said flurona was “quite significant”.
“We need people to be concerned enough about this to go and get vaccinated,” he said.
“Flurona is quite significant, and we know it greatly increases the chance of all the serious outcomes from either infection.
“So you’re much more likely to end up in hospital, and much more likely to have those serious consequences.”