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What you need to know about the terms 'flurona' and 'deltacron'

Terms like "flurona" and "deltacron" have been floating around social media, but what exactly do they mean? 3News spoke with three doctors to break it all down.

CLEVELAND — If you’ve been on social media recently, you may have seen terms “flurona” and “deltacron” circulating. But what exactly do those terms mean, and are they scientifically accurate? 3News asked three doctors at hospital systems in Northeast Ohio more about these concepts.

“Flurona” is a term meant to describe when someone gets both the flu and coronavirus at the same time. According to doctors, it is possible to get both viruses simultaneously.

“Flurona is a coinfection of influenza and SARS-CoV-2. We haven’t seen this until now because COVID essentially outcompeted influenza all throughout last winter, so we didn’t have a flu season last winter,” said Dr. Daniel Rhoads, section head of microbiology at the Cleveland Clinic. “Now that we’ve seen some cases of influenza, and we also have COVID circulating, there’s the opportunity for a coinfection with both influenza and COVID, and that occurs occasionally.”

Dr. Rhoads noted that while it’s possible to have both the flu and COVID at the same time, they are not merging together to create a new virus or strain.

“It’s just two infections at the same time,” he said. “This has happened forever essentially.”

Dr. Amy Edwards, pediatric infectious disease specialist at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, said she’s surprised the term “flurona” has gained so much traction considering she frequently sees patients with multiple infections.

“Coinfections are pretty common, it’s something that physicians have been dealing with since presumably the beginning of time,” Dr. Edwards said. “For instance, in pediatrics we often see kids who will have coinfections, say with RSV and rhinovirus.”

Dr. Edwards said clinically, it depends on the individual patient to determine whether any sort of coinfection would even be relevant. She said in most people, a coinfection would most likely go unnoticed.

Then there’s the term “deltacron,” referring to the combination of the delta and omicron variants. Dr. David Margolius, division director of general internal medicine at MetroHealth, said the idea that the two variants have merged into a brand new variant isn’t true.

“It is possible for folks to be infected with the delta variant and the omicron variant, but the viruses aren’t combining together to some kind of mutant virus,” Dr. Margolius said. “Folks should rest assured that it’s really common for folks to get infected with two respiratory viruses at the same time, and it should add no particular additional concern.”

Dr. Rhoads said there are questions that still need to be answered about what exactly “deltacron” is, and said it’s still under investigation.

“There’s a little bit of, I guess skepticism as to what it really is,” he said. “The group that originally reported it said this is a hybrid or an amalgamation of two different variants of SARS-CoV-2, omicron and delta, and they somehow merged into a new lineage. There’s other groups who are concerned that this is maybe just a technical error so to speak.”

“For example, somebody has a coinfection with both the delta and omicron variants, then maybe if you try to sequence that sample, you’ll find both of them, and potentially you could misinterpret that as a new genome when really it’s just two separate genomes,” Rhoads said.

Dr. Margolius said a patient may not even know if they have both variants due to the way tests are administered.

“At this point, at the point of care, we’re not testing for variants, that’s something that’s done in a special lab,” he said. “For us, we’d only know positive or negative for coronavirus, positive or negative for flu if we took that test as well.”

All three doctors said if you do see something that surprises you on social media, or if you have questions about coronavirus, it’s best to ask your doctor, healthcare provider, or public health department, rather than strictly relying on what you see on social media.

“As always, check with your healthcare provider or check with the CDC or with the UH website or whatever medical system you use,” Dr. Edwards said.

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