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What Is Florona? Double Infection Of COVID-19 And Influenza: Everything You Need To Know

According to Arab News, Israel has recorded the first case of the 'florona' disease amid worries about the Omicron variant. According to another report published by Hindustan Times, a pregnant woman who was admitted to a medical facility for giving birth was diagnosed with florona. However, the report said the young woman had not been vaccinated, citing a report from the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth [1].

What Is Florona?

The Florona disease is a combination of COVID-19 and influenza. Due to the simultaneous infection of two viruses, Florona represents a severe lapse in immunity.

Florona is not a new COVID variant to dispel misgivings, as it is believed to be caused by flu and Coronavirus occurring at the same time. However, Israel has seen a surge in influenza cases in the last few weeks, and doctors are studying Florona.

The news of Florona comes when the world is battling a new outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 attributable to the new variant Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa in November 2021. Fast-transmissible disease variants have already reached most countries, displacing the previous variant Delta in the United States and the United Kingdom [2][3].

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What Are The Symptoms Of Florona?

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that both diseases can be contracted simultaneously and have similar symptoms, such as cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, headache, and fatigue. In addition, the symptoms may vary among individuals, and some may have no symptoms, mild symptoms, or severe symptoms. However, it does state that both influenza and COVID-19 may be fatal [4].

As mentioned in the Nature report, COVID-19 and influenza are both airborne transmitted pathogens; they affect the same tissues of the respiratory tract and nasal, bronchial, and lung cells. Consequently, the overlap of the COVID-19 pandemic with seasonal influenza could potentially put a large population at risk for infection from both diseases [5].

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What Do Experts Say About Symptoms Of Florona?

People should not panic, as it is not a new variant of COVID. There were earlier unconfirmed reports regarding the detection of Delmicron, again, not a new variant. Furthermore, there have been reports of SARS-CoV-2 variants Delta and Omicron attacking simultaneously in Europe and the United States [6].

According to the CDC, for both COVID-19 and influenza, one or more days can pass between when an individual becomes infected and when they experience the symptoms.

However, a COVID infection may take more than this period or time frame for the individuals to experience symptoms than if they had the flu [7].

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What Is A Twindemic? Why Are The Viruses Mixing Up?

Experts also added that the coinfection of viruses are a natural occurrence, and the possibility of a ‘twindemic' occurring was highlighted earlier [8]. However, the two viruses did not conjoin earlier due to COVID guidelines, such as social distancing and regular sanitising. With the restrictions being eased throughout the globe, the risk of a twindemic has heightened.

"Whatever the historical prevalence of coinfection, the twindemic never happened last winter. Perhaps due to mask-wearing and social distancing, flu numbers in the U.S. were much, much lower than normal during the 2020-21 season," said experts [9].

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How Is Florona Detected?

It adds that, in the winter season, seasonal influenza cases may show an upward trend, and there may be cases of coinfection with COVID-19. The health ministry notes that both COVID-19 and seasonal influenza present as Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) or Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI), and thus, all cases of ILI/SARI in areas reporting COVID-19 cases should be evaluated and tested for both COVID-19 and seasonal influenza [10].

Due to the similarity of the symptoms, the ministry notes that laboratory investigations are also not very helpful in differentiating between the two but that coinfections should be excluded only by appropriate diagnostic procedures at an early stage in order to initiate proper specific management to reduce morbidity and mortality.

According to an expert, different PCR tests are used to detect the influenza virus and the novel coronavirus, and the infection can only be confirmed through lab testing. However, CDC scientists point out that there is a test that can detect seasonal flu types A and B and Sars-CoV-2, and US public health laboratories are using it for surveillance purposes [11].

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Are Vaccines Effective Against Florona? Who Are At Risk Of Florona?

While all groups of individuals can develop a coinfection of influenza and COVID-19, older adults, those with comorbidities and weakened immune systems, as well as healthcare workers, pregnant women, and women who have recently given birth are at greatest risk of becoming infected with influenza and COVID-19.

According to the WHO, vaccination against influenza and severe COVID is the most effective way to protect yourself, pointing out that vaccines that protect against COVID-19 do not protect against influenza and vice versa. Therefore, WHO recommends the influenza vaccine for older adults, young children, pregnant women, people with underlying health problems, and health workers [12].

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Should People Be Concerned About Florona?

Specifically, the Nature report stated that experiments had demonstrated that influenza pre-infection significantly increased the spread of Sars-CoV-2 and that increased viral loads and more severe lung damage were observed in mice that were also infected with influenza.

Researchers explained that their study demonstrated how influenza is able to exacerbate Sars-CoV-2 infection, and thus, preventing influenza infection is vital during the current COVID-19 pandemic [13].

According to the guidelines issued by the Union Health Ministry for the management of coinfection of COVID-19 with other seasonal epidemic-prone diseases in our country, the seasonal pattern of epidemic-prone diseases can be identified as diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, seasonal influenza, Chikungunya, etc.

Furthermore, it may not only present a diagnostic dilemma, but it may also coexist in cases of COVID, presenting difficulties for both clinical and laboratory diagnosis of COVID as well as bearing on clinical management and patient outcomes.

Story first published: Monday, January 3, 2022, 15:02 [IST]
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