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What it can do with Covid-19 and the flu with your body

“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.”

By themselves, both Covid-19 and influenza can attack the lungs, potentially causing pneumonia, fluid in the lungs or respiratory failure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Any disease can also cause sepsis, heart damage and inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissue.

Having both diseases at the same time “would increase the risk of long-term effects on either of these organs,”

; said Dr. Michael Matthew, a professor of medicine and critical care specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.

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.

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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.

“Acute respiratory failure can be a life-threatening emergency,” said the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. “Respiratory failure can cause damage to the lungs and other organs, so it’s important to heal quickly.”

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.

Both the flu and Covid-19 can cause fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, body aches and runny nose, or a stuffy nose, the CDC said.
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“Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, although this is more common in children than in adults,” the CDC said.

But unlike the flu, Covid-19 can cause loss of taste or smell.
And about half of coronavirus transmission occurs between people who show no symptoms. (Many of these people have pre-symptoms and are more contagious before they begin to show symptoms.)

So the best way to find out if you have the new coronavirus or the flu (or both) is to get tested.

The CDC has set up a test to check for both viruses, which will be used in public health laboratories maintained by the CDC. The agency said it continues to produce and distribute these tests.

How can I avoid this double hit of flu-Covid-19?

Wear a mask and maintain physical distance. Health officials have stressed the importance of masks and physical distancing if Americans want to control Covid-19 – and get the economy back on track.

With the flu season approaching, such precautions could “double protect us from the two viruses,” Yasmin said.

In the southern hemisphere, which is just ending the winter months and flu season, several countries report surprisingly low flu rates as people wear masks and social distance.
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For example, in Australia, the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza dropped from 61,000 in August 2019 to 107 cases in August.

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. “

Get a flu vaccine. This may sound obvious. Yet about half of all Americans are not vaccinated against the flu, including most children who die from the flu.
Even if you get a flu shot and still catch the flu later, the symptoms are usually less severe than if you did not get a flu shot at all.

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.

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Pediatricians say it is important for children 6 months and older to get the flu vaccine, ideally before the end of October. “Early flu vaccination is especially important this flu season,” the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote this week.

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.

About 140,000 to 810,000 Americans are hospitalized with the flu each year, according to the CDC. And the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations is expected to rise by more than 150 percent from now until Dec. 1, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Indicators and Evaluation.

“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.

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