Long Flu: Beyond the Hospital Stay

Long Flu. So, here’s the scoop: if you’ve been hospitalized because of the flu, there’s a higher chance you might face some long-term health issues, kind of like what we’ve been seeing with long Covid. This recent study suggests that after the initial infection, there’s a greater risk of ongoing problems for both flu and Covid patients. Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, a whiz in clinical epidemiology at Washington University, led this research and was surprised by the extent of long-term sickness in Covid survivors. This got him thinking: could something similar be happening with the flu?

Spotting the Pattern

Dr. Al-Aly and his team dove into records of around 81,000 folks hospitalized with Covid and nearly 11,000 hospitalized due to seasonal flu. They didn’t just stop at the initial hospitalization; they followed these patients for at least a year and a half to see what came next. Their findings, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, were eye-opening. Yep, Covid patients had a higher chance of landing back in the hospital or facing death within the next 18 months. But here’s the kicker: both flu and Covid came with significant risks of ongoing health troubles.

The Long-Term Toll

Turns out, more than half of the bad stuff—like death or disability—happened after the first month following the infection. While the flu mainly messed with the lungs—think shortness of breath or cough—Covid patients dealt with a similar set of issues plus added fatigue, heart problems, tummy troubles, and even brain fog. It’s like these viruses weren’t done with their havoc after the acute phase.

Beyond the Hospital Walls

The doc pointed out something crucial: a bunch of folks might think they’ve kicked the flu or Covid once they leave the hospital. But this study shows that both these bugs can tag you for a long-haul illness. Dr. Al-Aly stressed that we’ve been looking at these illnesses the wrong way—just scratching the surface. There’s a whole lot more going on after the hospital discharge, and it’s serious.

Facing Reality

The study couldn’t pin down how many flu-hospitalized folks end up with long-term issues or if certain groups are more at risk. That’s next on the to-do list for Dr. Al-Aly and the gang. Also, they’re not sure how many people get the flu but don’t land in the hospital yet still face ongoing health problems.

What’s Next?

Dr. Al-Aly’s main takeaway? We’ve gotta lower the risk of ending up in the hospital because of these viruses. Vaccination is key, and for Covid, having antiviral drugs could also help out big time.

So, here’s the deal: it’s not just about shaking off the flu or Covid after leaving the hospital. These bugs might stick around, causing trouble long after you’ve said goodbye to that hospital bed. It’s a wake-up call to take these viral infections seriously—they’re not just about a temporary fever or cough. They could mess with your health for the long haul.