How dangerous is it to be infected with several Corona variants at the same time?

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The more often and the longer the coronavirus infects humans and animals, the more mutations can form. Omicron is the best example of this. Thus, the risk of being infected with two different Corona variants at the same time also increases, because it is quite possible. But how dangerous is a double infection with Corona?

Unfortunately, the Corona pandemic continues to bring new challenges. And many questions cannot yet be conclusively answered. For example, the question of whether a double infection (also called co-infection) with two Corona variants at the same time is more dangerous than a single infection? Or does infection with influenza and corona at the same time lead to a particularly severe illness?

Double infection with two different Corona variants
The first cases of a so-called co-infection with two different Corona variants were reported in a Brazilian study as early as the beginning of 2021. The study showed not only the presence of different virus strains, but also the possibility of becoming infected with several strains at the same time. Thus, two patients were documented who were infected with the gamma variant prevalent in Brazil at the time and also had another viral variant. The affected individuals were reportedly between 30 and 40 years of age and showed only mild symptoms despite the co-infection.

In contrast, the case of a 90-year-old Belgian woman reported last summer was quite different. After the woman was admitted to a hospital, she was found to have both the alpha and beta variants of the coronavirus. The patient reportedly suffered from respiratory problems and died within five days. Since the unvaccinated woman lived alone at home, where she was cared for by a nursing service, it was assumed that she may have been infected with two different virus variants by two nursing staff.

So far, however, there have been very few proven double infections. This makes it difficult to say whether the course of the disease is more severe with a double infection than with a single infection. The Belgian molecular biologist Anne Vankeerberghen from the OLV Hospital in Aalst assumes that co-infections are probably an underestimated phenomenon. That’s because people simply test for the different variants too infrequently. For example, someone who receives a positive corona detection through a rapid test does not know whether it is one or more variants. Thus, the number of unreported cases of double infections is probably much higher.

Flurona” – double infection with influenza and corona viruses
At the moment, however, there is even more discussion about another type of double infection: that with an influenza virus and a coronavirus. Cases have already been reported in Spain, the USA and, more recently, Israel. The new word “flurona”, a combination of “flu”, the English word for flu, and corona, quickly spread.

The case in Israel became known only a few days ago. Both the flu virus and the corona virus were detected in an unvaccinated pregnant woman.3 However, the 30-year-old had only mild symptoms and has since been discharged from the hospital along with her newborn.

The case shows that a double infection is not necessarily associated with a severe course of the disease. The chairman of the German Society for Infectious Diseases, Bernd Salzberger, also confirmed this to the Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA). He considers the occurrence of such double infections “nothing special.” According to him, such cases must occur at some point, but they are rare. But even he can only speculate that a double infection is probably somewhat worse than a single infection.

Mask-wearing also protects against flu viruses
On the positive side, Salzberger says, “wearing masks has meant that two winters have passed with almost no influenza.” Thus, at least in Germany, there is no reason for a new horror scenario.

Professor Sven Hammerschmidt of the University of Greifswald also commented on the topic of double infection between the flu and coronavirus on the German government’s site. According to him, there are still many question marks about the interaction of the two viruses, because scientific studies are lacking. “However, it has been shown that hygiene measures have led to a significant containment of the influenza wave and a weaker spread of pneumococcus,” says Prof. Hammerschmidt. Although infection with both pathogens can occur, this is not a common phenomenon so far, he adds.

Conclusion
Both double infection with two different Corona variants and co-infection with the flu and Corona virus at the same time are very rare cases. It is important to keep in mind that there is probably a large number of undetected cases. Experts assume that both types of double infection can cause more severe symptoms of the disease. However, there are also individual cases of people, especially between the ages of 30 and 40, who developed only mild symptoms despite the double infection. For those who want to be on the safe side, a flu vaccination is recommended in addition to the Corona vaccination. According to the Standing Committee on Vaccination in Germany (Stiko), it is even possible to receive both vaccinations at the same time, provided the influenza vaccine is a dead vaccine.

Sources. fitbook.de/picture. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
1 Francisco RDS Jr, Benites LF, Lamarca AP, de Almeida LGP, Hansen AW, Gularte JS, Demoliner M, Gerber AL, de C Guimarães AP, Antunes AKE, Heldt FH, Mallmann L, Hermann B, Ziulkoski AL, Goes V, Schallenberger K, Fillipi M, Pereira F, Weber MN, de Almeida PR, Fleck JD, Vasconcelos ATR, Spilki FR. (2021). Pervasive transmission of E484K and emergence of VUI-NP13L with evidence of SARS-CoV-2 co-infection events by two different lineages in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Virus Research.
2nd Belgian woman dies after double infection. ZDF Today. (accessed Jan 06, 2022).

  1. ‘Flurona’: Israel records its first case of patient with COVID and flu at same time. The Times of Israel. (accessed 06.01.2022)
  2. viruses and bacteria in a dangerous double game. The Federal Government. (accessed 06.01.2022)
    5.Answers to frequently asked questions about influenza vaccination. Robert Koch Institute. (accessed on 06.01.2022)
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