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Flu and COVID-19 at same time significantly increases risk of death

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Having flu and COVID-19 together significantly increases your risk of death, say government scientists who are urging all those at risk of getting or transmitting flu to get the vaccine in the coming weeks and months.

The evidence for the double whammy is currently limited and comes mostly from a study with small numbers – 58 people – carried out in the UK during the early phase of the pandemic.

“As I understand it, it’s 43% of those with co-infection died compared with 26.9% of those who tested positive for Covid only,” said England’s deputy chief medical officer, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam. These were people who had been hospitalised and had been tested for both viruses, he said, and so were very ill – but the rate of death from Covid alone in the study between January and April was similar to the known rate of Covid hospital mortality generally of around 25% or 26%.

"I think it is the relative difference in size of those rates that’s rather more important than the absolute rate,” he said. The study may have been small and they would be doing further studies this season, but the findings tallied with other work that has been done, he said.

“If you get both, you are in some serious trouble, and the people who are most likely to get both of these infections may be the very people who can least afford to in terms of their own immune system, or their risk for serious outcomes. So please protect yourself against flu, this year,” says said Prof Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England

The government has bought 30,000,000 doses of flu vaccine, which is more than ever before. They will arrive in batches, so the elderly – over 65 – and those with medical conditions will be called for immunisation first. Relatives of those who are on the shielding list will also be called up. The letters will begin to go out this week.

Because of the threat of Covid and the risk that people with flu could be infected if admitted to hospital, all those aged 50-64 will be offered flu vaccination, but not straight away. They should wait to be called by their GP.

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Source: The Guardian, 22 September 2020

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