Experts have been long warning us about the difficulties of the COVID pandemic persisting during the flu season, and now Mexico has the perfect example of why – the first patient to be infected with COVID-19 and influenza at the same time has been found.
“What confirms that it is indeed a person with both viruses, and therefore the first case for Mexico, is that it was the same sample, on the same day, with respiratory symptoms,” José Luis Alomía, Mexico’s Director General of Epidemiology of the Ministry of Health, said in a press conference.
The patient, a 54-year-old female, is “currently hospitalized [and showing] good progress,” according to Alomía. The director of Epidemiology has also indicated that this is the first case of seasonal influenza this season, which began two weeks ago.
But, how serious can catching both viruses be? According to experts, the predicament could be “catastrophic to your immune system.” What is more, getting infected with one disease could make you more vulnerable to catching the other.
“Once you get infected with the flu and some other respiratory viruses, it weakens your body,” Dr. Seema Yasmin, director of the Stanford Health Communication Initiative, told CNN. “Your defenses go down, and it makes you vulnerable to getting a second infection on top of that.”
Additionally, having both illnesses simultaneously “would increase the risk of longer-term effects of any of those organ systems,” stated to Dr. Michael Matthay, a professor of medicine and a critical care specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.
For Alomía and the Mexican doctors treating the anonymous patient, the real problem remains that there is no real blueprint to follow in terms of treatment for the patient.
“Something that we do not know so far, because there is not much bibliography or case studies reported from the southern hemisphere, where the high season of influenza has just ended [while there was also] COVID-19, is if this conjunction of two viruses could produce a disease more serious,” said Alomía.
Alomía explained that, at a certain time, it would be “quite complicated” to know if what is taking place is a serious case of COVID-19 or a serious case of influenza. Even more threatening is that, if these dual cases continue to arise, the Mexican health system will be risking collapse, according to Dr. Alejandro Macías, responsible for managing the influenza epidemic in Mexico in 2009.
“If these diseases get mixed up, there will be extra hospital pressure,” Macías said. “No country is prepared for a sin-pandemic.”