In the midst of a new pandemic surge, another seemingly new ailment is now grabbing headlines: flurona.
Despite the catchy name, "flurona" is not new. It is a term coined to describe what happens when a person tests positive for the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.
"Both are common, so it is not unexpected that some people would be infected at the same time," said Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
Flurona is not a new disease, experts stress, nor is it a new variant of COVID-19. The flu virus and COVID-19 virus are from two very different virus families. Scientists are not concerned about the two viruses mixing to create a new virus.
There are many different types of viruses that are capable of infecting people. Viruses that cause the flu and COVID-19 are two examples, but there's also HIV, the chicken pox virus, rabies virus, the common cold and many others.
It has always been possible for one person to be infected with two or more different viruses at once. And with flu season coinciding with a new COVID-19 surge, there's a greater chances that a handful of people will test positive for both viruses at the same time.
Doctors call these instances co-infections. Though uncommon, last year's flu season also saw a handful of cases of flu and COVID-19 in the same person at the same time.
"It has not been a big issue for us because of the low levels of influenza circulating in the community," Dr. Jonathan Grein, director of Hospital Epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told the hospital's website. Cedars-Sinai said it had recently seen one mild case of the co-infection.
"It's obviously not good to be infected with two viruses rather than one, but there's no clear indication that this is a particularly bad combination," Grein added.
With the flu and COVID circulating at the same time, people can reduce the risk of becoming severely ill with either virus by getting vaccinated against the flu and COVID, wearing a mask in crowded spaces and washing your hands.