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Flu + COVID-19 = Badness | or Why I Need My Flu Shot

October 26, 2020

Written by Clay Smith

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Influenza and COVID-19 co-infection is a dangerous combination, with high mortality. Get your flu shot. (If you see me at work today, remind me to get mine…)

Why does this matter?
Some respiratory viral infections appear competitive – infection with one makes infection with another less likely. It appears that may be the case with COVID-19 and influenza as well. But if you get both at the same time, what happens? It’s not pretty…

Get your flu shot
Public health data from England from January to April 2020 shows the odds of death were 2.3 times higher (95%CI 1.23 to 4.19) in people with influenza and SARS-CoV-2 co-infection compared with SARS-CoV-2 alone. “When combining intensive care admission or death into a composite variable, the odds of death were 6.33 times greater in people with coinfection (3.57 to 11.23) than in those with neither virus.” Most cases were in elderly patients, over half of whom died. This was a brief report in BMJ based on an unpublished and not yet peer reviewed manuscript. However, the medical director of Public Health England said, “Most of the studies on flu and covid are case reports and may be subject to publication bias, but this particular piece of work looked at death records, hospitalisation records, and infection records from laboratories. So, we are pretty confident that it reflects what actually had happened.” Since only one of these illnesses is vaccine preventable presently, it is important to get your flu shot. Co-infection is bad news.

Covid-19: Risk of death more than doubled in people who also had flu, English data show. BMJ. 2020 Sep 23;370:m3720. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m3720.

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