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L.A. County testing site detects first ‘flurona’ case, a co-infection of flu and COVID

Francis Delpech gets tested at 911 COVID Testing on Sepulveda Boulevard
Francis Delpech gets tested at 911 COVID Testing on Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

A coronavirus testing site said it has detected its first “flurona” co-infection of the flu and the coronavirus in Los Angeles County.

The case, involving a teenager, was detected four days ago at a testing site near the Getty Center in Brentwood, said Steve Farzam, chief operating officer of 911 COVID Testing. The teen, who tested positive for both influenza and COVID, had just returned from a family vacation in Mexico.

“This is the first one that we’re aware of,” Farzam said. “In and of itself, it’s not overly concerning; however, it is concerning and can be problematic for someone who has preexisting medical conditions, anyone who is immunocompromised.”

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The flu and COVID-19 are contagious respiratory illnesses but are caused by different viruses. Because some of the symptoms are similar, testing is needed to confirm a diagnosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Israel recently confirmed its first case of someone infected with both the flu and COVID-19, according to the Times of Israel. The infections were reportedly found in an unvaccinated pregnant woman with mild symptoms.

The World Health Organization says it is possible to be infected with both diseases at the same time. The most effective way to prevent hospitalization and severe illness is with separate vaccinations against both illnesses, the organization said on its website.

In Los Angeles County, a family of five returned from a weeklong trip to Cabo San Lucas and immediately visited the 911 COVID Testing site because one of the teens had a runny nose, Farzam said. Prior to the trip, the family — all L.A. County residents — said they had tested negative for the coronavirus.

The 911 COVID Testing site on Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles.
The first local case of “flurona” was identified Wednesday by the 911 COVID Testing site on Sepulveda Boulevard.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

When the site used a combination test for both influenza and COVID-19, the teen tested positive for both. He doesn’t have serious symptoms and is recovering at home, Farzam said. The following day, the boy’s mother tested positive for COVID-19.

The teen had not been vaccinated for either illness, according to Farzam.

“There’s a double punch delivered,” Farzam said. “We urge everyone to get vaccinated. ... If it’s foreseeable, it’s preventable.”

In an email, the L.A. County Department of Public Health said 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.”

“We are not tracking these occurrences systematically and cannot tell you how frequently they have occurred,” health officials said in a statement.

With the CDC reporting that influenza vaccination rates are lower this year than in previous years, the department said the best way to prevent concurrent infection “is to get vaccinated with both influenza and COVID-19 vaccines, which are both highly effective and can be administered at the same time.”

Shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday, there was a line down the block of people waiting to get tested at the 911 COVID Testing site in Brentwood. Farzam estimated there were hundreds of cars waiting.

“We’re busier than ever,” Farzam said. “There just seems to be no end in sight. We all had a New Year’s resolution that after the new year, we would hope to see the curve be flattened. Unfortunately, our nightmare has become a reality and our New Year’s resolutions were crushed early.”


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