SAN ANTONIO — Concerns are mounting about flurona. The term refers to someone getting infected with both the flu and COVID at the same time.
There are plenty of people getting infected with one or the other, as the flu is making a comeback.
KENS 5 learned of one case in San Antonio from last year.
This is all happening as the U.S. comes off a historically low flu season last year. Nationwide, we had the lowest flu numbers since we began documenting them in the early 2000's.
"We had a lot of public health interventions in place because we didn't have a lot of people vaccinated yet because we started mid-December. People were staying home, people were wearing masks, people weren't traveling," said Dr. Jason Bowling, Hospital Epidemiologist for University Health.
Doctors fear that this flu season, if we don't take action, influenza patients could be the tipping point for our hospitals.
"Overwhelmingly right now, it's still COVID that we're being taxed with. Flu will just make it worse," said Dr. Charles Hankins, Chief Medical Officer for CHRISTUS Santa Rosa.
January is the time of year when flu season usually picks up.
With cases inching higher nationwide and across Bexar County, doctors with CHRISTUS Santa Rosa predict a bigger flu season this year in San Antonio.
Right now, Hankins says CHRISTUS is on par with the nation's 6% positive rate for influenza, compared to the 1% range a few weeks ago.
"As we've gotten back to normal, there's going to be this pent up demand for these other viruses to explode as well," Hankins explained.
Hankins says the hard part now is telling the difference between the flu and the new COVID variant.
"It is getting more confusing and its tough," he said. "The symptomatology has always had an overlap, but with the Omicron variant it's even greater."
Flu cases are on the rise at CHRISTUS and at University Health.
"Last week we saw 62 cases of flu, which is up from the week before when we saw 48 cases," said Bowling. "I expect we will see our numbers continue to rise pretty quickly."
Bowling revealed Wednesday, the rare double-infection of COVID and the flu - called 'flurona' - hit San Antonio late last summer.
"We had a case back in August of a person that was co-infected with Influenza and COVID," said Bowling. "I think this is going to be a lot more common with COVID cases being really high right now. With our increase in flu, I think it's very possible we're going to start seeing more cases of that."
If hospitals become overwhelmed with COVID and the flu, doctors predict other patients may run into problems getting immediate care. On top of that, they say the supply chain problem could hit hospitals next.
"They work hard to maintain the supplies they need, but when you start hitting larger and larger numbers, it becomes more and more challenging to have supplies, the therapeutics, the medicines, the things you need to provide best quality care," said Bowling.
So what can we do about this?
Hankins and Bowling say keep wearing a mask, avoid crowded events and get vaccinated for COVID and the flu.
The good news is, Bowling says we're seeing Flu A as the predominant strain of the virus that's circulating, which matches pretty well with what's in the flu shot.
Remember, the CDC says it's safe to get the COVID and flu vaccines at the same time.