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Contracting flu and Covid at same time increases risk of death, PHE research suggests

by Awil Mohamoud
23 September 2020

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The risk of death for people who test positive for both flu and Covid-19 is nearly double that of those with Covid-19 alone, according to Public Health England (PHE) research.

The study, which analysed national surveillance data between January and April, found that of 58 people co-infected with the two viruses 43% died, compared to 27% of those with Covid-19 alone. 

Most cases of co-infection were in older people, the research found, and the mortality rate was also higher for this group – 67% of people aged 80 and over, and 57% of 70 to 79-year-olds.

The study also found that patients with both viruses at the same time were almost six times more likely to die than those with neither.

The report concluded that ‘cocirculation of these viruses could have a significant impact on morbidity, mortality and health service demand’.

‘Prioritise flu vaccination uptake’

PHE said maximising flu vaccination uptake ‘should be prioritised’ to mitigate these risks, particularly given that it is ‘likely’ that both Covid-19 and flu will be cocirculating as the winter approaches. 

Matt Hancock, health secretary, said: ‘This year more than ever, it’s vital that those eligible for the flu jab get it this winter. We’re pulling out all the stops to prepare for this uniquely challenging winter and we have enough vaccines for 30 million people this year, more than we’ve ever done before.’

PHE said a public campaign will be launched in early October across TV, radio and online to ‘reinforce the seriousness of flu’.

In July, the Government pledged to vaccinate more than 30 million people in England – double last year’s number – following the decision to extend eligibility for the free jab to more schoolchildren and shielded patients and their households, as well as 50-64 year-olds ‘later in the season’.

Wales and Northern Ireland have adopted a similar approach, while Scotland has included household members of those shielding, social care workers and people aged over 55.