KANSAS CITY, Mo — A rise in COVID-19 and flu cases in both Kansas and Missouri continue to strain health care systems and now doctors are reporting cases of patients battling COVID-19 and influenza at the same time; an occurrence being dubbed flurona.
“What I have seen normally is one or the other, in all the people I have had tested for influenza and COVID it’s usually one or the other, although there are reported cases of both," Saint Luke's Health System Dr. Todd Fristo said.
Fristo said the key is not to panic and while co-infections are rare they can happen especially at a time when viruses continue to spread rapidly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccinations are down this flu season compared to previous years and cases are up all across the board.
Hospitalizations for influenza are also seeing an uptick. As of now, the cumulative hospitalization rate in the FluSurv-NET system is higher than the rate for the entire 2020-2021 season.
"Last year there was more social distancing, a lot more mask wearing in public places and we’re not doing it that much this year," Fristo said.
The CDC listed flu activity in both Kansas and Missouri in the moderate and high level range, but overall influenza activity is still low nationally.
However, surveillance systems within the CDC show a slow and steady increase of the virus. It comes at a time where both COVID-19 and flu present similar symptoms which make it difficult for health care providers to diagnose. It's one of the many reasons why doctors are encouraging people to stay home and go get tested right away to start appropriate treatment.
"It’s hard to eliminate based solely on symptoms which I think is probably one of the most challenging things we have seen in medicine for many years," Fristo said.“It is really important to get an accurate diagnosis so we can start people on the appropriate therapy as soon as possible."
It's not too late to get a flu vaccine, for hours and locations check out the Missouri Department of Health and Environment and Senior Services website, or in Kansas, visit the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's website.
To avoid the spread, doctors are asking people to be cautious while out, continue wearing face coverings and get vaccinated.
"It takes about two weeks for the influenza vaccination to take affect so if you can get it sooner rather than later that really is very helpful," Fristo said. "It reduces chance of contracting infection but probably more so reduces the chance of an ER visit or hospitalization. “