Fact Check: 'Flurona' Is NOT A New Disease -- It's Slang For Overlapping Flu And COVID-19 Infections

Fact Check

  • by: Dean Miller
Fact Check: 'Flurona' Is NOT A New Disease --  It's Slang For Overlapping Flu And COVID-19 Infections Not Cross-Bred

Is "flurona" a new cross-breed virus resulting from combination of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and seasonal influenza? No, that's not true: Flu and SARS-CoV-2 can't combine their DNA to create a new virus, according to a professor of microbiology at the University of Washington. "Flurona" is not a medical term. It's shorthand for a rare condition called co-infection, in which a patient is simultaneously infected with two distinct viruses. In early 2022, the word "flurona" itself went viral, with people posting panicky and satirical social media entries about the condition, which had only been documented a few times among the millions of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

Among those was this January 3, 2022 Facebook post (archived here) under the title "They done had a baby!!" It opened:

We finna [fixing to] die

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:


Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Jan 5 19:35:40 2022 UTC)

The Facebook post includes a screenshot of what appears to be a television "Medical Watch" report with the caption "WORLD'S FIRST VERIFIED CASE OF 'FLURONA'."

Prof. Michael Lagunoff, Ph.D., of the University of Washington (UW) Department of Microbiology, said in a January 5, 2022, email to Lead Stories that the scenario described on Facebook -- a cross-bred virus -- is not what has happened.

There is absolutely no evidence (and likely no possibility whatsoever) that influenza virus A and Sars-Coronavirus-2 could recombine into a single virus to create a novel hybrid virus.

Prof. Evgeni V. Sokurenko, MD, Ph.D., Lagunoff's colleague at UW, agreed with Lagunoff in a January 5, 2022, email, writing:

My understanding [is] that flurona term comes from the case of woman in Israel tested positively for both flu and covid viruses. So, it is the first recorded mixed infection. But Michael is 100% right about the high unlikeliness for a hybrid virus to emerge by recombination...

Flurona is not a medical term that shows up in searches of the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nor the Food & Drug Administration, nor the National Library of Medicine, which is rated the largest medical library on Earth.

Flurona GFX.jpg

Medical researchers have identified several cases of coinfection of patients with COVID-19 and other viral diseases. In their descriptions of the cases, they do not describe coinfection as the result of cross-bred viruses.

For instance, the Emerging Infectious Diseases science journal published a paper in November 2021, documenting the outcomes for patients found to have contracted both Legionnaire's Disease and COVID-19, which are caused by two distinct viruses, not a cross-bred antigen.

In the early phase of the COVID pandemic, researchers in China reported to Emerging Infectious Diseases they had found cases in which pneumonia patients were documented to be simultaneously infected with COVID and with seasonal pneumonia. Similarly, a June 2020 paper in the Journal of Medical Virology reported on a half-dozen cases in Turkish hospitals in which patients were found to have simultaneous COVID and seasonal flu infections. The phenomenon of multiple viral and bacterial infections dates back to the 1918 flu pandemic.

Another term circulating in relation to coinfection is "Twindemic" which is part of the title of a book recently published by Contagion Live, a website for infectious disease professionals. That book: Twindemic: Potential Ramifications of COVID-19 and Flu Convergence describes the potential problems if levels of flu infection return in 2022 to normal levels after the relatively mild flu season of 2021.

Contagion Live reported on January 4, 2022, that Israel had just reported its first coinfection of a patient with flu and COVID.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

  Dean Miller

Lead Stories Managing Editor Dean Miller has edited daily and weekly newspapers, worked as a reporter for more than a decade and is co-author of two non-fiction books. After a Harvard Nieman Fellowship, he served as Director of Stony Brook University's Center for News Literacy for six years, then as Senior Vice President/Content at Connecticut Public Broadcasting. Most recently, he wrote the twice-weekly "Save the Free Press" column for The Seattle Times. 

Read more about or contact Dean Miller

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