‘It’s always challenging’: Inland Northwest health expert says ‘flu-rona’ could be a double-whammy for health care providers

SPOKANE, Wash.- “Flu-rona” is what doctors are calling a co-infection of the coronavirus and the flu.

Hospitals confirmed flu-rona in five different states, including California.

“We’ve not identified any ‘cases’ of it per say,” said President of Multicare Valley and Deaconess Hospital Greg Repetti. “Is it out there? I suspect it is. Is it making it any worse? I don’t know.”

Multicare area hospitals still haven’t resumed elective surgeries. Repetti is concerned it could cause further strain on already busy hospitals.

“The concern with flu-rona is that it’s going to be a double whammy,” he said. “People are going to see their oxygen levels drop to levels that are scary and need to be in the hospital to get oxygen.”

The majority of staff and employees at the Multicare hospitals have received both the flu and coronavirus vaccine, but a combination of the two viruses poses a new threat to the medical industry. Staffing issues are already a problem at hospitals. The new CDC guidelines, which can bring staff back to work faster, have helped despite the surge of the Omicron variant.

“It’s always a challenge, the wintertime,” Repetti said. “You’ve got cold and flu season, now you throw this on top of it. And you throw people who may have delayed care during the Delta surge who are now sicker, all of it, that is stressing our entire system.”

Repetti guesses flu-rona wasn’t a concern last year because there were more people wearing masks as compared to this year.

He’s encouraging everyone to get vaccinated with both the flu and coronavirus vaccine and to use urgent care facilities as the first option of care to avoid further strain on hospitals.

RELATED: Spokane County reports most COVID cases of any day in the pandemic

RELATED: WHO: Record weekly jump in COVID-19 cases worldwide but fewer deaths