People infected with both the common flu and the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 are more than twice as likely to die compared to people with only covid-19, according to an analysis by Public Health England (PHE).
PHE has reviewed cases from January to April 2020. The results also show that people with the two viruses at the same time have a greater risk of a serious disease course, it is stated in a news article in the renowned British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Most cases of so-called co-infection were among older people.
The data emerge from a not yet peer-reviewed study, published in medRxiv, but the results from the study are clearly something the British health authorities trust.
The figures were made public when PHE recently launched an expanded flu vaccination program for England that will target 30 million people this winter, BMJ writes.
– There is now evidence that clearly indicates that co-infection with influenza and covid-19 gives poor results. One of these diseases can currently be prevented with a vaccine, and that is the very important point, said the British infection control expert Jonathan Van-Tam at the press conference.
The researchers looked at 19,256 people who were tested for both influenza and SARS-CoV-2 from January 20 to April 25, 2020.
Among these, 58 people had both the common flu and coronavirus infection. 25 of these patients, or 43.1 percent, died.
20 of them were over 70 years old.
More than doubled risk
The researchers have calculated that the chance of fatal outcome was 2.27 times as high in those with co-infection compared to people who had SARS-CoV-2 alone.
The authors believe this suggests “possible synergistic effects” in co-infected people.
Furthermore, the researchers found that the risk of testing positive for the coronavirus was 68 percent lower among people with proven common flu.
PHE emphasizes that this is in line with recent findings from New York, where less than 3 percent of people who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 had a flu infection, while 13 percent who tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 were flu-positive.
– Serious problems
Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director of PHE, is clear in her message:
– There is evidence to suggest that influenza, covid-19 and other viruses may compete with each other. If you get both, you are in serious trouble, and the people who are most at risk of being infected may be the people who tolerate it the worst, Doyle says.
She believes PHE’s data gives “an important signal” about the need to protect against the flu this year.
The Norwegian Directorate of Health says that people in risk groups in Norway are also recommended to be vaccinated against the common flu this year.
– No wonder
– It is not surprising that double infection with influenza and covid-19 increases mortality, especially among intensive care patients. Especially for older people, the flu can cause serious illness, says assistant health director Espen Rostrup Nakstad to Dagbladet and continues:
– Getting covid-19 at the same time or after the flu will therefore be a great strain on the body, not least on the respiratory system. This is one of the reasons why people in the risk groups are recommended to take the flu vaccine this year.
Nakstad believes that good vaccine coverage will also reduce the number of hospital admissions and the need for coronavirus testing.