Australia records first ‘flurona’ death – so how dangerous is it?

An elderly woman has become Australia’s first known victim of ‘flurona,’ after catching both Covid-19 and the flu at the same time.

The woman from Victoria was in her 90s and unvaccinated when she became unwell before passing away in January.

She is one of six people in the state to contract both diseases.

All of the other cases were aged between 18 and 64, and vaccinated for Covid.

Empty beds on a hospital ward.
A woman in her 90s has died after contracting both Covid-19 and the flu. Source: Getty Images

Experts debate the dangers of 'flurona'

As temperatures begin to plummet — with a cold front due to sweep southern Australia from Thursday — there are fears the flu will wreak havoc on a population largely protected from the virus over the past two years due to Covid prevention measures.

“Flurona is quite significant and we know it greatly increases the chance of all the serious outcomes from either infection,” the University of Queensland’s infectious diseases expert Professor Paul Griffin told Sunrise.

“So you’re much more likely to end up in hospital, and much more likely to have those serious consequences.”

But not all experts agree.

A woman blows her nose into a tissue (left) and Covid molecules under a microscope (right).
Catching Covid and the flu at the same time could increase your risk of being hospitalised. Source: Getty

Professor Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases physician and microbiologist from the Australian National University, dismissed the hype as incorrect.

“There’s yet another colourful addition to the pandemic lexicon — “flurona” — but it doesn’t refer to a new variant or even a new condition,” he Tweeted on Thursday.

“The two diseases do not combine to make some hybrid form of either virus.”

“Flurona is a fearmongering misnomer.”

Yahoo US medical contributor Dr Lucy McBride says it's pretty uncommon to get two viruses at the same time.

"It's like lightning striking twice, but it's certainly possible that coronavirus and flu could mix," she told Yahoo News US.

"The key is to get vaccinated for both."

Push continues for vaccinations

As talk continues over how serious the threat of contracting both viruses really is, it’s promoted fresh warnings for Australians to get the flu jab and make sure their Covid vaccinations are up to date.

“By getting vaccinated against both highly contagious infections, you’re not only protecting yourself and those around you, but you’re also helping to ease pressure on our health system,” a spokesperson from the Victoria Health Department said.

A woman wearing a mask receives an injection.
Health authorities are urging Australians to make sure their vaccinations are up to date. Source: Getty

While Omicron cases have plateaued, the country’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly previously warned of another outbreak.

“Every June since 2020, there has been a wave of Covid in Australia and other southern hemisphere countries.”

“With two years of no flu [due to Covid measures], we will probably have [a flu season] and we are prepared for all eventualities.”

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