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VERIFY: Serious COVID-19 complications make flu death more likely

Patients with COVID-19 lung or heart damage are more likely to have deadly flu complications, but it's unclear if the correlation is direct or indirect.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — For more than half a year, COVID-19 has changed life, as we know it, and there is still no set timeline for a vaccine.

Meanwhile, America is heading into flu season, and doctors warn the flu shot is more important than ever, this year.

RELATED: 2 Your Well-Being: COVID-19 and the flu

VERIFY QUESTION

WFMY News 2 viewer Roger Adams reached out, noting many COVID-19 patients experience depleted lung, heart and brain functions. He asked, "..What if they get the flu? Will they die?"

VERIFY SOURCES

VERIFY PROCESS

The CDC explains both COVID-19 and the flu can cause respiratory failure, as well as multiple organ failure. But, COVID-19 additionally can cause blood clots in the veins and arteries of the lungs, heart, legs or brain.

Wake Forest Baptist Health infectious disease expert, Dr. Chris Ohl, explained:

     "There were some documented patients who tested positive for both COVID-19 and the flu this past spring, but it’s hard to know if their illness was more severe because of the dual infection. It didn’t seem to increase their chance of dying. If a patient has recovered from COVID-19 and doesn’t have significant underlying medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, their chance of dying from the flu should not be increased.”

But, what if they haven't recovered? Are they more likely to die upon contracting the flu?

Cone Health Wesley Long medical director Dr. Jeffrey Hatcher explained:

     "My answer to this is a layered yes. I think we are so early in this epidemic we don't know all the long term effects of the infection. Certainly, someone who has been in the hospital recently with COVID-19 is more likely to be debilitated and to have difficulty from recovering from a second insult. Whether this is from lung damage due to micro-thrombosis, or due to overall weakening, or nutrition is unclear. I don't believe we know the answer to this question for people with milder illness.” 

VERIFY CONCLUSION

Can COVID-19 patients with decreased heart, lung and brain functions die, if they get the flu? If they have recovered and are otherwise healthy, then, most likely, no. If they have serious, lasting COVID-19 effects, then yes, the risk is greater. But, it is unclear if the two are directly or indirectly linked.