In a new study, researchers found that about one in five people with COVID-19 is also infected with other respiratory viruses.
In addition, the analysis found that about one in 10 people who exhibit symptoms of respiratory illness at an emergency department, and who are subsequently diagnosed with a common respiratory virus, are co-infected with the COVID-19 virus.
The findings challenge the assumption that people are unlikely to have COVID-19 if they have another type of viral respiratory disease.
The research was conducted by a team at the Stanford School of Medicine.
Currently, if a patient tests positive for a different respiratory virus, doctors believe that they don’t have COVID-19.
However, given the co-infection rates observed in this study, that is an incorrect assumption.
Accurate and rapid testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is necessary to identify those who are infected and slow the spread of the disease.
Understanding the likelihood of co-infection is an important step in this process.
In the study, the team analyzed 562 people recently tested for COVID-19. Forty-nine of those people tested positive for infection with SARS-CoV-2.
Of the 562 people, 517 were also tested for the presence of other common respiratory viruses, such as influenza A and B, respiratory syncytial virus, rhinovirus, adenovirus and several types of pneumonia.
One hundred and twenty-seven received a positive result for one of these other respiratory viruses.
Of the people tested for both SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses, eleven people—or about 22% of the 49 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 8.7% of the 127 people with other respiratory viruses—were found to be co-infected with both kinds of viruses.
As of March 29, there have been 136,880 confirmed or presumptive cases of COVID-19 in the United States, and 2,409 deaths resulting from the illness, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.
More than 33,500 people worldwide have died from the disease, which causes mild to severe respiratory illness.
The disease is particularly dangerous for elderly people and those with pre-existing health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease.
The leader of the study is Ian Brown, MD, a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine.
The researchers shared their findings on Medium.com, an online publishing platform, at the request of the California Department of Public Health.
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