“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.”
Having both diseases at the same time “would increase the risk of long-term effects of any of these organ systems,”
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.
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.
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.
“Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, although this is more common in children than adults,” the CDC said.
So the best way to know if you have the new coronavirus or the flu (or both) is to get tested.
How can I avoid this double hit of Covid-19 flu?
With the flu season approaching, such precautions can “protect us doubly from both viruses,” Yasmin said.
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. “
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.
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. .
“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.