US Detects First 'Flurona' Cases

Published January 6th, 2022 - 11:13 GMT
Flurona cases discovered in the US
Residents exit US Customs and Border Protection at the Paso del Norte International Bridge during a shut-down of non-essential travel to control the corona virus, COVID-19, outbreak in El Paso, Texas on March 21, 2020. AFP/ File Photo
Highlights
The positive Flurona cases come just days after the first case of the double infection was found in a woman in Israel.

The first cases of simultaneous flu and COVID-19 infections have been detected in the United States in two children from Texas and California. 

The 'Flurona' cases were found this week in a child in Texas and one in Southern California.

The first case was diagnosed at Texas Children's Hospital Monday after a test confirmed the child was infected with both influenza A and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID.

The child was not hospitalized and is said to be recovering at home, USA Today reported. No other details about the patient were immediately available.

The second case was discovered in Brentwood, California on New Year's Day at a mobile testing center. The patient, from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, was visiting the US on a family vacation.

The child was experiencing symptoms but in 'fairly good condition' and has not been hospitalized, Steve Farzam, CEO of 911 COVID testing, told KVEA Wednesday. The minor was released to their parents after test and sent home. 

It is unclear if either child has received their COVID or flu shots. 

The positive Flurona cases come just days after the first case of the double infection was found in a woman in Israel. She was suffering mild symptoms and health officials are studying her case to determine whether the combination causes any greater severity of illness. 

COVID is generally very mild in children. Just 803 Americans aged between 0 and 18 have been killed by the virus between spring 2020 and December 29 2021, according to the latest CDC figures.  

Texas Children's Hospital was the first hospital in the US to confirm the co-infection and is working with other medical experts nationwide to conduct further research.

'This is one confirmed case and, of course, we'll be working with our colleagues across the country to see if there are more cases and whether we will see a distinct pattern in these cases,' Dr. Jim Versalovic, pathologist-in-chief and COVID command center co-leader at the hospital, told reporters Monday. 

The hospital was also the first in the nation to report joint infections of COVID and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, over the summer. 

Versalovic said dozens of the children diagnosed with both COVID and RSV required hospitalization. However, he notes there is no specific treatment or vaccine for RSV, so health experts speculate children diagnosed with Flurona will see better outcomes than those diagnosed with the COVID RSV co-infection. 

Farzam, whose testing facility diagnosed the California case, said the child's symptoms resembled that of other ailments.

'It was a family visiting from Mexico, from Cabo San Lucas,' Farzam. 'Some very mild symptoms, almost could be easily confused with sinusitis.'

Health experts expect to see a rise in co-infections and warn both the flu and COVID can cause serious illness. 

The Los Angeles County Health Department reiterates that 'concurrent infection with more than one respiratory virus is exceedingly common and there is no reason to expect that SARS-CoV-2 should be an exception to this rule'.  

Meanwhile, Dr. Frank Esper, a physician at the Cleveland Clinic Children's Center for Pediatric Infectious Diseases, reminds families that although Flurona will become more common this winter, health officials have treatments for both illnesses.

'I expect to see plenty of co-infections (of flu and COVID-19) going forward, but I don't see anything that suggests it makes COVID infections worse,' he said. 'Those are two viral pathogens that we actually have medicines for.' 

 

In addition to offering vaccinations to prevent severe illness, health care providers are prepared to simultaneously treat the infections with Tamiflu and remdesivir. 

Esper also notes that co-infections are more likely to occur in young children because their immune system is still becoming familiar with many common viruses. 

'Hands down, the No. 1 predisposition for having more than one virus at the same time is your age, and it's really children under 5,' the doctor said. 'They all have virus running rampant and swap them like trading cards.' 

Confirmation of the Flurona diagnoses comes less than a week after a young, pregnant Israeli woman became the first person in the world to be infected with both COVID and the flu.

The woman tested positive for both viruses in Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva city, Israel, on Thursday. She was suffering mild symptoms and Israeli health officials are studying her case to determine whether the combination causes any greater severity of illness. 

Her case is first documented in the world but doctors believe there could be more Flurona infections in the country. 

Professor Arnon Vizhnitser, director of the hospitals' Gynaecology Department, told Hamodia: 'She was diagnosed with the flu and coronavirus as soon as she arrived. Both tests came back positive, even after we checked again.'

'The disease is the same disease. They're viral and cause difficulty breathing since both attack the upper respiratory tract.'

The woman is expected to be discharged this week. 

Vizhnitser added: 'We are seeing more and more pregnant women with the flu. It is definitely a great challenge dealing with a woman who comes in with a fever at childbirth.

'This is especially when you do not know if it’s coronavirus or the flu, so you refer to them the same. Most of the illness is respiratory.'  

Meanwhile, new cases of COVID remain near record highs across the US - although many predictive models forecast that the Omicron wave will crest before the end of January. 

On Tuesday the U.S. recorded 869,187 new cases, down from the record set on Monday but higher than any other day since the pandemic began. 

The country's seven-day rolling average of new cases stood at 565,042, a 114 percent increase from a week ago, according to a DailyMail.com analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.

However, deaths remain relatively low, with 2,384 new deaths on Tuesday, a decline of 13 percent from week-ago levels on a rolling average basis. Hospitalizations are rising, but remain well below their peak last January. 

COVID cases are also on the rise in California and Texas, where the Flurona diagnoses were discovered.

California reported 141,752 new cases Tuesday and 76 deaths. The state is reporting a seven-day average of 52,855 cases and 53 deaths.

Health officials in Texas reported 53,990 cases Tuesday. There were no deaths. The state reported a seven-day average of 37,390 cases and 67 deaths. 

On Wednesday, Center for Disease Control director Rochelle Walensky confirmed that the agency estimates that the Omicron variant now represents 95 percent of all cases across the U.S., and Delta makes up the remaining 5 percent. 

'The sharp rise in cases and the emergence of the more transmissible Omicron variant emphasizes the importance of vaccinations and boosters,' she said. 

'This week, the FDA made several vaccine authorizations and the CDC followed these authorizations to make additional vaccine recommendations.'

This includes shortening the window between the second dose of a Pfizer vaccine and a booster shot to five months, down from six months. 

The latest news from South Africa, where Omicron was first identified, is a positive sign, as the wave there has collapsed completely, running out of people to infect after spreading through an estimated half of the population.

In the UK, which is a few weeks ahead of the US in the surge, more than 3 million people in England had COVID on New Years Eve, or roughly one person in every 15, the Office for National Statistics estimated. 

However, there were 'early signs' that infections are already peaking in London, the epicenter of the current wave.

Models from Columbia University and the University of Washington's Institute of Health Metrics and evaluation project US peaks in late January before cases decline. 

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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