Contracting both the flu and Covid-19 together significantly increases your risk of death.
Government scientists warned of the risk this week, and are urging those at risk of transmitting the flu to get the vaccine in the coming weeks and months to mitigate the risk.
Flu kills between 4,000 and 22,000 per year
Evidence for the ‘double whammy’ of catching both the flu and Covid-19 is currently limited.
A large chunk of the evidence comes from a study of only 58 people, carried out in the UK during the early stages of the pandemic.
England’s chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said, “As I understand it, it’s 42 per cent of those with co-infection died compared with 26.9 per cent of those who tested positive for Covid only.”
He added that these were people who had been hospitalised and had tested positive for both the flu and Covid-19. The rate of death from Covid-19 alone in the study between January and April was similar to the known rate of Covid-19 hospital mortality generally of around 25 per cent or 26 per cent.
Prof Van-Tam believes the study, although small, tallied with other work that has been done. The flu kills between 4,000 and 22,000 people every year, with the death toll last year at 8,000.
Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England said, “The last thing you really want to have is flu. And if you do think you have either flu or Covid, stay at home and self-isolate. That’s to protect yourself - you’d be feeling very miserable - but also to protect others.
“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.”
30 million doses of flu vaccine
The government has purchased 30 million doses of flu vaccine, which is the most it has ever bought. The vaccine will arrive in batches to allow the over 65s and those with medical conditions to be called for immunisation first. Relatives to those who are shielding will also be contacted.
Children ages two and three, plus all primary school children and those in year seven will be offered a vaccination to protect the older children in their families.
Letters advising those eligible for the flu vaccine will begin to go out this week.