Long Flu Got Some Tricks Up Its Sleeve

Long Flu. Hey, did you know the flu can play the long game? Turns out, landing in the hospital because of the flu might set you up for some ongoing health problems, kinda like what we’ve seen with long Covid.

The Big Surprise

When you’re hit hard by the flu and it puts you in the hospital, it’s not just a short-term thing. This study led by Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly from Washington University dug into it and found out that these after-effects, nicknamed “long flu,” focus more on lung issues, unlike the lasting problems we’ve seen with long Covid. But here’s the kicker: the risk of serious problems or even kicking the bucket after getting the flu is higher months after, not just in the first month.

Putting the Pieces Together

Dr. Al-Aly got curious about this after seeing folks struggle with long-term issues post-Covid. It made him wonder if the flu could pull the same stunt. Back then, thinking about a “long flu” wasn’t on anyone’s radar, but the pandemic opened our eyes to the idea that viruses might leave some not-so-cool lasting effects.

The Dive into Data

Dr. Al-Aly and the gang didn’t mess around—they checked out medical records from over 81,000 Covid hospitalizations and nearly 11,000 regular flu hospitalizations. They kept tabs on these folks for at least 18 months to see what went down—more deaths, more hospital visits, and health issues popping up in different parts of the body.

The Shocking Findings

Their report in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal hit hard. Covid patients had a bigger chance of kicking the bucket or needing another hospital trip in the next 18 months, but guess what? Both the flu and Covid left a mark, causing ongoing problems.

But here’s the twist: more than half of the deaths and issues didn’t show up in the first month. They sneaked in later. Even though the flu’s effects seemed more about the lungs—like coughing or trouble breathing—both groups dealt with stuff like tiredness, heart issues, tummy troubles, and even brain and organ problems in the months that followed.

Life Beyond the Hospital

Dr. Al-Aly’s waving a big red flag here—thinking you’re all good once you leave the hospital after the flu or Covid? Nope, not really. These viruses might tag along for the long haul, causing problems down the line. It’s like an iceberg—there’s way more going on after getting sick that can really mess with your health. Some folks end up with serious long-term health problems, and that’s no joke. It’s important to take viral infections seriously, not just brush them off as short-term troubles.

What’s the Plan?

The study didn’t dig into how many hospitalized flu peeps end up with more health issues, or who’s more at risk. But they’re on it. They’re also not sure how many folks get the flu but don’t land in the hospital, yet still deal with ongoing health problems. So, Dr. Al-Aly’s got one big message: let’s lower the risk of ending up in the hospital because of these bugs. How? Get vaccinated! And for Covid, use those antiviral drugs.

The Final Word

This study’s a game-changer—it flips how we see the flu. It’s not just a short-term sniffle—it might stick around longer than we ever thought.