TUCSON, Ariz. — Flu and COVID-19 are both respiratory viruses that mainly attack the lining of the lungs.
"They cause fluids to flood into those areas because the lungs become very inflamed," says Dr. Matt Heinz. "You can't breathe well. People, of course, are coughing and there is a lot of interference with just the normal function of these tissues."
A new study published in a medical journal from the U.K., called 'The BMJ', says people infected with both flu and SARS-CoV-2 are more than twice as likely to die as someone with the new coronavirus alone.
"The fact that that just having both of those acting in the body, attacking the lining of the lungs and all of the things that we know that it does, just makes it a lot more difficult for our immune systems," says Heinz.
Public Health England also did a case study from January to April of 2020, and it found people with the two viruses were more at risk of severe illness.
"If people happen to be unfortunate enough to get both of these conditions, they may have very serious illness indeed," says Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director of Public Health England.
That's not a huge surprise, but the analysis also found that most cases of co-infection were in older people, and more than half of them died.
"Especially 65 and older," says Heinz. "Folks that suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune diseases. All these co-morbidities make folks a lot higher risk, and those are the ones are going to suffer the most."
The numbers were high enough that England's health department took these data and launched a flu vaccination program that will target 30 million people this winter, like this, called 'Just the Flu'.
So get that flu shot. It’s a small task that can tackle a big problem. And if the Brits can do it, we certainly can, too.
Click here if you’d like to learn more, or read the full study from 'The BMJ'.