LONDON — People suffering from influenza and covid-19 simultaneously face a significantly higher risk of death, British government scientists warned Tuesday, following a new study conducted during the early months of the global health crisis.
England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, said that 43 percent of patients who had been hospitalized with both infections died, compared with 26.9 percent of people who were admitted to the hospital and tested positive for the coronavirus only.
The research indicates that those suffering from co-infection of flu and covid-19 were 2.27 times more likely to die than those who had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Van-Tam noted that while the study, conducted between January and April, was based on a small number of subjects — 58 people — the findings aligned with other investigations being carried out. He added that more research was underway.
“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,” said Yvonne Doyle, Public Health England’s medical director. She urged people considered high-risk to get a flu shot if they were eligible.
About 11,000 people in England die each year of the flu. The government offers a free vaccine to those considered vulnerable — including people over 65, those with other health conditions, pregnant women and front-line staff.
The government has purchased an estimated 30 million doses of flu vaccine — its largest order to date — as the country continues to grapple with the threat of a full-scale second outbreak of the virus.
Britain has the highest death toll in Europe, with more than 41,800 lives lost so far.