Ask Dr. Nandi: Getting COVID-19 and the flu at the same time: What are the risks?

Posted at 8:10 PM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 20:10:18-04
(WXYZ) — 

Fall is fast approaching and with it comes the flu season. Unfortunately, a recent study found that it is possible to become infected with both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

And even though coronavirus cases have been dropping overall here in the US, many people have been asking “what might happen if you get sick with both?”

Several of my patients have asked me that same question. And to be honest, this is concerning to me. Because the flu and COVID-19 are both respiratory illnesses and they’re very contagious.

Now, there is still a lot that scientists don’t know yet. Because the novel coronavirus is new and there is limited data.

But a published study did find that 20% of patients had coinfections, meaning they had both COVID-19 and another respiratory virus. And that the flu was one of them.

Now, how might this frightful double whammy affect your health? Well, again, it’s still too early to really know. And unfortunately, we’ll learn more as the months pass.

But in my opinion, to be infected with both would likely be harder on your health. And be much more dangerous for the folks with higher risks due to age or underlying health conditions.

When you look at Australia for instance, their weather is the opposite of ours. So wintertime for them is June through August. Now, so far, the data does indicate that they’ve had a milder flu season. Which is great news and very likely the result of COVID-19 hygienic practices. Because both the flu and COVID are spread very similarly - most likely by tiny droplets that fly out when coughing, sneezing, or talking. So it’s not surprising to me that wearing a mask, social distancing and regularly washing hands would have an impact on overall transmission rates.

I can’t stress how important it is to get the flu shot. In fact, I and my entire family including the kids will be getting the flu shot very soon.

September and October are the best months to get this done as flu season is just starting to ramp up. And your body needs about two weeks to build up antibodies.

Also, the flu shot is especially important for older adults, pregnant women, children, and anyone with chronic medical conditions. Because they are the ones most at risk for a severe infection.

So even though we have COVID-19 precautions, it does not guarantee that you won’t get the coronavirus or the flu. But getting the flu shot will help to lower your risk of getting influenza and it will help to protect our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed and running out of health care resources.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

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