AUSTIN (KXAN) — After officials with the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston confirmed Monday its first co-infection case of COVID-19 and influenza, health providers in Austin are monitoring the situation in Central Texas as flu season nears its peak.
Dr. Jim Versalovic, pathologist in chief at Texas Children’s, said Monday a child contracted a co-infection case and is now recovering at home and should be fine. This follows overseas reports of the first confirmed co-infection case appearing in Israel last week.
Dr. Matthew Robinson serves as medical director of infectious diseases at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center. He said while data is limited on co-infection cases due to more recent emergences, the respiratory nature of both illnesses is one to elicit caution.
“I haven’t seen a case that’s certainly been confirmed,” he said. “These are two respiratory viruses, and will, to some degree, compete with one another for sort of dominance in a patient.”
In severe circumstances, both COVID-19 and flu can lead to pneumonia and respiratory failure. Similarly, there are overlaps in high-risk populations most vulnerable for contracting and developing severe illness, Robinson said.
For the flu, the most vulnerable communities are older adults and young children, as well as those who have underlying lung and heart conditions or who are immunocompromised. Similarly with COVID-19 cases, older adults, those with compromised immune systems and pregnant people have traditionally been more vulnerable, but otherwise healthy populations have also been impacted.
“There’s a lot of overlap here in terms of the two viruses and who might be most susceptible to significant disease with either or both,” he added.
The flu season 2021-22 has remained fairly quiet compared to years past, Robinson said, likely due to vaccinations and COVID-19-related safety measures, like masking and social distancing. Flu cases tend to peak during the January and February time frame, he said, which is why these next few weeks will be telling.
As for preventive measures people can take, Robinson stressed the importance of both the flu and COVID vaccines, as well as people seeking out COVID boosters once eligible. Masking, frequent handwashing and social distancing are all practices that can help lower transmission rates.
“There’s a lot of overlap in terms of transmission and avoidance of both of these,” he said.