On December 30, 2021, the Israeli newspaper Ynet it was invented the word ‘flurone’ and, in a matter of days, it has become one of the pandemic buzzwords that is repeated over and over again by the network, the media and (at least, you have to admit it) morning conversations. But,what exactly are we talking about when we talk about ‘flurone’? Is it something new and dangerous? Moreover, does the alarm that has been generated make any sense?
The ‘flurone’ or how to create a problem from something that we have known for almost two years
What’s that ‘flurone’ thing? ‘Flurone’ is a recently created term to speak of the simultaneous infection of influenza (type A or type B) and the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The term, as he pointed out, was coined on December 30 by the Israeli newspaper Ynet, in a story about a pregnant woman who was not vaccinated against either virus and had contracted both viruses at the same time.
The use of the new term can create confusion, giving the impression that we have found a new virus or, worse still, that the flu and the coronavirus have somehow merged. Nothing is further from reality. It is, as I say, a co-infection of both viruses that, in fact, is not even novel.
Isn’t it something new? Not at all. The first work on flu and coronavirus coinfections was published in The Lancet in March 2020 and, since then, they have not ceased to exist. It is true, however, that the “disappearance” of the flu during the past year (something that was due to the same measures to minimize the contagion of the coronavirus) have made these types of co-infections relatively rare. At least officially, because it must also be recognized that, in the midst of the pandemic, studies were relatively scarce and focused, above all, on COVID). So now it sounds new.
However, co-infections are relatively common. Infections with other respiratory viruses (rhinovirus, enterovirus, etc …) have been documented, although unlike influenza, a coronavirus infection does not usually cause bacterial infections. It can happen, of course; but it is something much less frequent.
Is ‘flurone’ dangerous? Obviously, either infection alone is dangerous. Especially if we are not vaccinated. Unfortunately, we do not yet have data on whether the clinical prognosis can worsen and we are not even clear about how the two viruses interact with each other.
How do I know if I have ‘flurone’? To be completely honest, except for a handful of very specific symptoms (such as the famous “loss of smell” of COVID-19), the symptoms of both diseases are similar and are almost impossible to differentiate unless specific tests are used. This can be a problem at an epidemiological level, but at a clinical level the treatment of the ‘mild phases’ of both diseases is the same: symptomatic. Only when the disease becomes severe are there specific treatments and does it make sense to know whether you have both viruses.
So does it make sense to use the word ‘flurone’? This concept is what linguists call a ‘blending’; that is to say, neologisms that are formed “truncating two words and fusing them roughly”. In the case of “Flurona”, the English word for influenza (“flu”) has been taken and mixed with “corona” (referring, of course, to the coronavirus). In Spain we have adopted this term due to the influence of the Anglo-Saxon press, but, as Elena Álvarez Mellado points out, the word that “the same is a transparent creation for an English speaker”, is quite opaque for a Castilian speaker. “Flu-” does not refer you to the flu and “-rona” does not refer you to coronavirus. In fact, since during the last two years “corona-” has been used as a prefix to create new terms, the logical thing might have been to speak of “corona flu”.
However, as we have seen, co-infections are rare, it occurs with many other viruses and we are not very clear that it entails an extra health problem. That is to say, the use of the word does not attend to its clinical significance, but to a kind of journalistic-marketing need.