Coronavirus continues to dominate the news.
The highly transmissible Omicron—named a variant of concern by the WHO in November 2021—has become dominant in the U.S. There are more than 103,000 people currently hospitalized in the country and children are particularly affected. There is data to suggest that Omicron is causing less severe symptoms, but it’s more immunity-evasive, causing breakthrough infections to surge. However, vaccines offer protection and the White House cannot stress it enough: get vaccinated, get your kids vaccinated, and if you’re eligible, get your booster shot.
While the world has been dealing with the Omicron variant, news has come from different countries of another variant, IHU, and a combination of flu and coronavirus, Flurona. This is a brief update.
First identified at the Méditerranée Infection University Hospital Institute (IHU) in France, the IHU variant of the coronavirus (B.1.640.2) is not a variant of concern. The WHO has announced that it has been on their radar, but it has not been detected in countries other than France, so it’s currently not a variant of interest either.
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Scientists keep discovering new variants and some are classified as variants being monitored, variants of interest, variants of concern, and variants of high consequence, the CDC notes. “These classifications are based on how easily the variant spreads, how severe the symptoms are, how the variant responds to treatments, and how well vaccines protect against the variant.”
Although the IHU variant contains more mutations than Omicron—46—it’s not a threat. Abdi Mahamud, Incident Manager for the WHO’s COVID-19 Incident Management Support Team, explained that the variant had many chances to pick up but it didn’t.
On December 31, 2021, an unvaccinated pregnant woman in Israel was detected with the double infection of flu and coronavirus. A few cases of “Flurona” were also detected last year. Now Texas Children’s Hospital has confirmed this week that a child tested positive for both the viruses and is recovering at home. With the current high activity of both flu and coronavirus, experts expect more cases of co-infection this winter season. There are still doubts over how double infections will affect people, but there is worry that it could overwhelm the already burdened healthcare system.
Influenza and COVID-19 are both respiratory diseases and cause cough, sore throat, and fever through droplets and aerosols. It’s unclear if the co-infection will be more severe, but experts advise adults and children to get vaccinated against both (flu shots are available for adults and children over 6 months while coronavirus vaccines are available for anyone 5 and older).
This isn’t a new variant or a new disease and there aren’t concerns yet of the two viruses mixing to create a new virus cocktail. The WHO said, “It was possible to be infected by both influenza and COVID-19. However, the two were separate viruses that used different receptors in order to attack the body; therefore, there was little risk of them combining into a new virus.”