What are the risks of getting Covid-19 and the flu

CAPE TOWN- International medical experts and researchers are exploring what might happen if people get Coronavirus and the flu at the same time and whether being infected with both viruses would be more dangerous than just one.

Though Covid-19 and the flu can cause some of the same symptoms, including fever, cough and fatigue, these similarities are mostly superficial. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Coronavirus and influenza viruses have a similar disease presentation, but a way to differentiate the two is the speed of transmission.

Influenza has a shorter median incubation period (the time from infection to appearance of symptoms) and a shorter serial interval (the time between successive cases) than Covid-19. The serial interval for Covid-19 is estimated to be 5-6 days, while for the influenza virus, the serial interval is 3 days, meaning influenza can spread faster than Covid-19.

The risk of coinfection is typically low, however, it could get higher when two viruses are circulating heavily in the same region. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that one in five people who were diagnosed with Covid-19 were infected with another respiratory virus, including one person who had the flu.


It remains uncertain as to when a Covid-19 vaccine will be available, however, the virus is likely to continue circulating through the population until there is a vaccine.

Being infected with both viruses at the same time would be more dangerous than just one, which is why many experts advise getting the flu shot, especially to at-risk groups and older adult.

An article published on Scientific American by an epidemiologist from Harvard University, Marc Lipsitch, said the overlap of Covid-19 and influenza may concern some epidemiologists and policy makers.

“The worst-case scenario is both [the coronavirus and the flu] are spreading fast and causing severe disease, complicating diagnoses and presenting a double burden on the health care system,” said Lipsitch.


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