Peru reports first death from flurona - an infection of both the flu and Covid-19

Healthcare workers registering people to be tested for Covid-19 in Lima, Peru, on Jan 6, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

LIMA (XINHUA) - Peru's Health Ministry has reported the country's first fatal case of "flurona" - a simultaneous infection of flu and Covid-19 - involving an 87-year-old patient with co-morbidities who was not vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The deceased was one of three cases of flurona detected in northern Peru's Amazonas region, according to Dr Cesar Munayco, a researcher at the ministry's National Centre for Epidemiology, Prevention and Control of Diseases.

The other two cases were a minor and a 40-year-old person who was fully vaccinated against Covid-19, he said.

Those infected presented symptoms such as cough, sore throat and general malaise, Dr Munayco said, urging the public to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and influenza because that "reduces the risk of dying".

"It is important to take this into account, because we currently have a major outbreak of H3N2 influenza in the country's jungle, such as (the regions of) Loreto, San Martin, Amazonas and Ucayali," the researcher warned.

Peru announced its third wave of Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, accelerated by the arrival in December of the Omicron variant, which has already led to 309 confirmed cases in this South American nation.

Flurona, a newly coined term to describe a double infection with both Covid-19 and influenza, has aroused wide public concern over the potential symptoms and impact the two infections might jointly cause.

The term came under the spotlight after an unvaccinated pregnant woman in her 30s tested positive for both diseases in Israel on Dec 30, which is the world's first recorded case.

According to the World Health Organisation, both Covid-19 and influenza are respiratory diseases that can cause similar symptoms including cough, sore throat,  runny nose, fever and headache.

Likewise, the two diseases can be spread through droplets and aerosols when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes.

The infected woman, showing mild symptoms, was treated with a drug combination that targets both Covid-19 and the flu, and was discharged from hospital on Dec 30, according to medics at Beilinson Hospital in Israel's Petah Tikva city.

So far, the exact symptoms and the rate of mortality that flurona might cause remain unclear. Scientists are still studying how it will possibly spread and the severity of the new double contagion. Yet medical workers are worried that the emergence of flurona will impose more pressure on the already heavily burdened public healthcare systems around the world.

Meanwhile, flurona has also sparked increasing calls for more people to get vaccinated and comply with other protective measures against Covid-19 and influenza, including social distancing, regular hand cleaning and travel restrictions.

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