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I'm a Doctor and Have This Essential COVID Warning

"COVID is not over."
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

It's important to remember that COVID is not over. Much like Influenza, we will deal with COVID-19 to some degree forever. Therefore, the more we know, the more vigilant we take precautions, the better we can protect ourselves, our families and our loved ones from the next significant outbreak. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What is a Twindemic?

Woman being sick having flu lying on sofa looking at temperature on thermometer. Sick woman lying in bed with high fever.

A twindemic is when you have two pandemics happening at the same time. We predict there will be a convergence of COVID-19 and Influenza this fall and winter. Whether or not this prediction comes true depends on how much worse COVID infections get and what happens with the 2022-23 flu season. Flu pandemics happen on average about every ten years and we are overdue, but we may get lucky and continue to have fewer flu cases than usual. Either way, it is important to be prepared and take the necessary precautions to protect ourselves and each other.—Emil Tsai, M.D., Ph.D., M.A.S. is a renowned scientist and the founder of SyneuRx, a clinical-stage global biotech company focused on the development of new classes of drugs for COVID-19 and multiple major central nervous system disorders.   


What is the number one thing to know about a Twindemic?

Woman being sick having flu sitting on bed alone at home, having high fever or temperature, touching forehead

Be aware of the potential risks and take precautions accordingly. COVID and Influenza are both respiratory diseases and the safeguards against infection are much the same. Older adults or people with underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart problems, obesity, chronic kidney disease, etc., are at high risk for COVID. For the flu, children and older adults, pregnant women and those with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk. To reduce the risk of infection for both COVID and the flu, you need to avoid close contact, stay at home when sick, cover your mouth or nose when coughing or sneezing, frequently wash your hands and get vaccinated. Hopefully, you can kill two birds with one stone (twindemic). 


Is it possible to have the flu and COVID at the same time?

Infected patient in quarantine lying in bed in hospital

Yes, people can be infected with both the flu virus and COVID at the same time. This potential outcome can be very dangerous. There is a lot of unknown about what would happen should a person be infected with the flu and COVID. Theoretically, two viruses that co-infect the same person can produce a new virus called a recombinant virus. We are also dealing with an outbreak of monkeypox; there is potential for a difficult situation. If these viruses were to mutate and create a hybrid virus, we don't know how virulent the hybrid virus is, how it will impact the infection rate, or how the virus is spread. As the infection of these viruses increases, the chances of mutation and recombination also increase.  


Why would the potential of having the flu and COVID at the same time be more dangerous?

woman lying sick at home couch

A co-infection of the flu and COVID hasn't happened yet, so this is speculation, but it could cause an increase in the severity of symptoms and the mortality rate. A co-infection would also be catastrophic to a person's immune system causing it to overreact and increase the likelihood of long-term effects on your organs and your respiratory system. It can be like a naturally occurring biological weapon against humanity. 


What should someone do to try and prevent or lessen the chance of infection of COVID or the flu?

Doctor vaccinating female patient in clinic.

The precautions that prevent the flu are the same precautions we have been taking for the last three years to avoid COVID. People should be vaccinated, limit time spent in enclosed spaces or large crowds, wear a mask when possible, stay home when sick and frequently wash their hands. There are also several pharmaceutical therapies in development that have shown great promise in treating a potential twindemic.

Everyone must take the initiative to take precautionary measures based on their medical circumstances and risk tolerance. People shouldn't rely solely on what is required. We know that wearing a mask decreases risk, so if you want to limit your exposure, wear a mask in crowded public spaces even if it is no longer required in those spaces. Suppose you or someone in your family are moderately or severely immunocompromised, you live with the elderly, or you are a health care provider, etc. In that case, you must take the precautions that make the most sense for your circumstances and not rely on the requirements of others. We must begin looking at this individually and altruistically. 

Emil Tsai, M.D., Ph.D., M.A.S
Dr. Emil Tsai, M.D., Ph.D., M.A.S. is a renowned scientist, professor at UCLA School of Medicine, and the founder of SyneuRx, a clinical-stage global biotech company focused on the development of new classes of drugs for COVID-19 and multiple major central nervous system disorders. Read more about Emil