“You can certainly get flu and Covid-19 at the same time, which can be catastrophic for your immune system,” said Dr. Adrian Burroughs, a family doctor in Florida.
In fact, becoming infected with one can make you more vulnerable to getting sick with the other, said epidemiologist Dr. Siema Yasmin.
“Once you catch the flu and some other respiratory viruses, it weakens your body,” said Yasmin, director of the Stanford Health Communication Initiative.
“Your defenses are dwindling and this makes you vulnerable to getting a second infection on top of everything.”
Having both diseases at the same time “would increase the risk of long-term effects on either of these organs,”
But it’s too early to know exactly how much worse this double hit could be compared to having each virus on its own.
That’s because Covid-19 didn’t spread to the United States until the end of the last flu season, Matthew said. So there is still not much data on people who get both diseases at the same time.
But Matthew suspects that the potential for pneumonia would be greater if the body was infected with both the flu and the coronavirus.
“The two (viruses) together can definitely be more harmful to the lungs and cause more respiratory failure,” he said.
Respiratory failure does not necessarily mean that the lungs stop working. This means that the lungs cannot get enough oxygen in the blood.
How do I know if I have Covid-19 or the flu (or both)?
“The symptoms of the flu and Covid-19 are quite similar, so it’s hard to tell the difference,” said Dr. Leonard Mermel, medical director of the Department of Epidemiology and Infection Control at Rhode Island Hospital.
“Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, although this is more common in children than in adults,” the CDC said.
So the best way to find out if you have the new coronavirus or the flu (or both) is to get tested.
How can I avoid this double hit of flu-Covid-19?
With the flu season approaching, such precautions could “double protect us from the two viruses,” Yasmin said.
But in the United States, some people are weak about wearing masks and social distance. And that’s a big problem, said Dr. Jeanne Marazzo, director of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
She said there could be a “perfect storm of accelerated Covid-19 activity as people gather more – especially inside – as they are constantly tired of wearing a mask, social distance and hand hygiene and whatever they are. exposed to seasonal flu. “
And since no Covid-19 vaccine is yet publicly available, the flu vaccine is the only way to help get vaccinated against both viruses at the same time.
Choosing the flu can also help many more people than just yourself, said immunologist Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association.
“As hospitals and doctors’ offices will be very busy caring for patients with Covid-19, the flu vaccine can help reduce the burden on the health system and ensure that those in need of medical care can they will get it, ”Bailey said.
“Every year, many patients get severe flu with respiratory failure,” Matthew said. Among patients who develop severe influenza pneumonia, “the majority of these patients have not had the flu vaccine this year.”
CNN’s Amanda Watts, Jen Rose Smith, John Bonifield, Jacqueline Howard and Elizabeth Cohen contributed to this report.