First case of “flurona” – flu and coronavirus – reported in Hamilton County

At least one case of someone infected with both the flu and the coronavirus – a disease dubbed “flurona” – has been detected in Hamilton County, according to the director of a local COVID-19 testing lab.

Athena Esoterix staff detected the case of flurona this week at their temporary community testing site on Signal Mountain Road, which they officially opened to the general public on Monday in an effort to meet the region’s strong demand for them. COVID-19 tests.

While not a new phenomenon, the incidence of influenza and COVID-19 co-infection is increasingly gaining attention with cases occurring in the United States as record wave of coronavirus fueled by omicron variant collides with flu season after holiday gatherings.

Flurona is not a separate disease, but the Washington Post reported on Wednesday that a flurry of people around the world searched for the term online over the New Year after Israel reported two young pregnant women had been tested. positive for both viruses.

Athena Esoterix founder and technical director Elizabeth Forrester said this week’s flurona case is the only one the lab has detected so far, but many patients who have passed through the site have tested positive for the coronavirus or the flu.

An average of 300 people per day requested testing at the site this week, and on Wednesday about 44% of samples collected were positive for COVID-19, according to Forrester.

She said a good chunk of the other samples were positive for influenza A – which so far this season has been the predominant strain of the flu, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Patients who come to the site are not automatically tested for the flu, but a flu test may be recommended depending on how patients complete their intake form, Forrester said.

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Hamilton County Reports First ‘Flurona’ Case

“For symptomatic people, [the CDC is] really encouraging COVID and flu testing so you can catch co-infections, ”she said, which allows sick people to be treated appropriately and to access antiviral drugs to fight their disease. sickness.

(READ MORE: Tennessee faces surge in omicron with ‘extremely scarce’ supply of antibodies, other COVID-19 treatments)

Holden Young, spokesperson for the Hamilton County Health Department, said in an email it was not known whether there had been other local cases of flurona because “the seasonal flu didn’t is not a reportable disease, “meaning providers are not required to report positive influenza cases. to the public health agency as they are for COVID-19. Therefore, the health department wouldn’t necessarily know if a case of COVID-19 also had the flu, he said.

Similar to how the CDC monitors influenza activity, the health department tracks influenza-like illness with reports from hospitals and providers reporting the proportion of patients seeking care in order to track overall disease trends.

“The Department of Health is always concerned about communicable diseases, especially during the winter months when the flu and SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes COVID-19] are more likely to spread since people are most likely indoors, sheltered from the cold, ”Young said.

Public health and medical communities have warned of the possibility of a “twindemia” where patients with influenza and COVID-19 have overwhelmed the healthcare system since the emergence of the novel coronavirus.

While the 2020/2021 influenza season has been extremely mild – likely due to the widespread practice of COVID-19 mitigation measures, such as masking and social distancing, which also help prevent other respiratory viruses – influenza has returned to pre-pandemic levels in recent months.

Overall, influenza activity is still low nationally but above the national benchmark, which is significantly more activity than last season and is increasing steadily, according to the CDC.

Like COVID-19, the vast majority of influenza cases do not require intense medical attention. However, a portion of patients with influenza and COVID-19 will inevitably end up hospitalized or die, and the number of such cases will be greater with high levels of transmission – as is the case with the highly contagious variant of the disease. ‘omicron.

(READ MORE: COVID-19 hospitalizations rise in Hamilton County as record increase in new cases continues)

Forrester said omicron is now responsible for about 98% of the lab’s positive COVID-19 samples.

The Hamilton County Health Department reported a total of 1,516 new cases of COVID-19 for Wednesday and Thursday, bringing the county to 1,820 new cases per 100,000 population in the past 14 days and more than doubling County’s new COVID-19 case rate in less than 10 days.

As of Thursday, there were 173 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the county, up from 96 patients two weeks ago.

The health department does not report local hospitalizations related to influenza.

For more information or to register for testing on the Signal Mountain Road website, visit athenalims.com/walkup.

For help finding other testing sites in Hamilton County, call 423-209-8383 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday or visit the health department’s website at health.hamiltontn.org.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or follow her on Twitter @ecfite.

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