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Doctors say getting COVID-19 & flu has been happening since start of pandemic

Doctors say simultaneously getting COVID & the flu is possible. As Newswatch 16's Elizabeth Worthington reports, it's been happening since the start of the pandemic.

DANVILLE, Pa. — It's often hard to tell if you have COVID-19 or the flu because the symptoms are so similar.

Now, doctors say there's a chance you could have both, at the same time.

Although people are just starting to talk about "flurona," Geisinger infectious disease specialist Dr. Stan Martin says it's not new.

"When COVID first started to hit the U.S. almost two years ago now, it was right at the tail end of flu season," explained Dr. Martin. "So we did actually have a handful of cases that we knew about where people were infected with both viruses at the same time."

Dr. Martin says there have likely been more cases of co-infection that we just didn't know about.

"Symptom-wise, can you really tell if you show up in the doctor's office and really outline the symptoms that you're you're having? Are they going to be able to tell whether or not it's COVID versus flu versus both? Not necessarily."

"There are tests that will test for both simultaneously, and we try to use those when we can so we know, is it COVID, is it flu, is it both? But we can't always do both," added Dr. Martin.

We asked if there's a possibility you could get a false positive test result for COVID when it's actually the flu - Dr. Martin said that's "really, really unlikely."

Does having both illnesses mean your symptoms will be more severe? The jury's still out on that one.

"We don't have enough studies yet to tell us. And of course, omicron as a general rule seems to be a little less virulent and we have a lot more immunity with COVID because of vaccinations which help prevent people from getting really sick," said Dr. Martin. "So I think we're still trying to learn what it means, quite frankly, to have both of these viruses simultaneously."

Dr. Martin says this wasn't much of a problem last year because the flu season was so mild.

That doesn't seem to be the case this year.

For more coronavirus-related stories, check out WNEP's Youtube page.