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What COVID-19 and flu could do for your body

“You can certainly get the flu and Covid-19 at the same time, which could be catastrophic for your immune system,” said Dr. Adrian Burrowes, a family doctor in Florida.

In fact, getting infected with one can make you more vulnerable to getting sick with the other, epidemiologist Dr. Seema Yasmin said.

“Once you get infected with the flu and other respiratory viruses, your body weakens,” said Yasmin, director of the Stanford Health Communication Initiative.

“Your defenses drop and it makes you vulnerable to a second infection in addition to that.”

Alone, both Covid-19 and the flu can attack the lungs, potentially causing pneumonia, fluid in the lungs, or respiratory failure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Each disease can also cause sepsis, heart injury, and inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscle tissues.

Having both diseases at the same time “would increase the risk of long-term effects of any of these organ systems,”

; said Dr. Michael Matthay, a professor of medicine and an intensive care specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.

But it’s too early to know exactly how worse that double whammy could be, compared to having each virus alone.

That’s because Covid-19 didn’t spread to the United States until the end of the last flu season, Matthay said. So there isn’t much data yet on people contracting both diseases at the same time.

Half a million US children have been diagnosed with Covid-19

But Matthay suspects the potential for pneumonia would be greater if the body was infected with both the flu and the coronavirus.

“The two (viruses) together could definitely be more damaging to the lungs and cause more respiratory failure,” he said.

Respiratory failure does not necessarily mean that the lungs stop working. It means that the lungs cannot get enough oxygen into the blood.

“Acute respiratory failure can be a life-threatening emergency,” says the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “Respiratory failure can cause damage to the lungs and other organs, so it’s important to get treated quickly.”

How do I know if I have Covid-19 or the flu (or both)?

“The symptoms of influenza and Covid-19 are quite similar, so it’s hard to tell the two apart,” said Dr. Leonard Mermel, medical director of Rhode Island Hospital’s Department of Epidemiology and Infection Control.

Both the flu and Covid-19 can give you fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches, and a runny or stuffy nose, the CDC said.
So your child has a Covid-19 symptom. What are you doing now?

“Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, although this is more common in children than adults,” the CDC said.

But unlike the flu, Covid-19 can cause a loss of taste or smell.
And about half of coronavirus transmissions happen between people who don’t show any symptoms. (Many of these people are pre-symptomatic and are more contagious before start showing symptoms.)

So the best way to know if you have the new coronavirus or the flu (or both) is to get tested.

The CDC has created a test that will check for the presence of both viruses, for use in CDC-supported public health laboratories. The agency said it is continuing to produce and distribute these tests.

How can I avoid this double hit of Covid-19 flu?

Wear a mask and keep your physical distance. Health officials have stressed the importance of masks and physical distance if Americans want to control Covid-19 – and get the economy back on track.

With the flu season approaching, such precautions can “protect us doubly from both viruses,” Yasmin said.

In the Southern Hemisphere, which is just ending the winter months and flu season, several countries have reported surprisingly low flu numbers as people wear masks and social distance.
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In Australia, for example, the number of laboratory-confirmed influenza cases plummeted from 61,000 in August 2019 to 107 cases in August.

But in the United States, some people are becoming relaxed about wearing masks and social distancing. And that’s a big deal, said Dr Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

He said there could be a “perfect storm of accelerated Covid-19 activity, as people congregate more – inside, in particular – as they continually tire with the mask they wear, social distancing and hand hygiene. , and how they are exposed to seasonal flu. “

Get a flu shot. This may seem obvious. Yet about half of all Americans are not vaccinated against the flu, including most children who die from the flu.
Even if you get a flu shot and keep getting the flu afterwards, your symptoms are generally less severe than if you didn’t have any flu shots.

And since no Covid-19 vaccine is yet available to the public, the flu shot is the only way you can help get vaccinated against having both viruses at the same time.

Pediatrician: It is time for all schools to require flu shots
Pediatricians say it’s important for babies 6 months and older to get the flu shot, ideally before the end of October. “Timely flu vaccination is especially important” this flu season, the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote this week.

Getting a flu shot can also help many more people besides yourself, said immunologist Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association.

“Since hospitals and doctors’ offices will be very busy caring for patients with Covid-19, a flu shot can help reduce the burden on the health system and make sure those who need medical care are able to get it. “Bailey said. .

About 140,000 to 810,000 Americans are hospitalized with the flu each year, according to the CDC. And the number of hospitalizations for Covid-19 is expected to increase by more than 150% between now and December 1, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

“Every year, many patients get severe flu with respiratory failure,” Matthay said. Among the patients who get severe pneumonia from the flu, “the vast majority of those patients did not have the flu shot that year.”

Amanda Watts, Jen Rose Smith, John Bonifield, Jacqueline Howard and Elizabeth Cohen of CNN contributed to this report.

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