How will Japan deal with both the flu and coronavirus?

This is part 59 of our coronavirus FAQ. Click here to read other installments: #Coronavirus the facts. Find the latest information and answers from experts on everything COVID-19.

Guidelines for treatment and diagnosis

Coronavirus and the seasonal flu can share some common symptoms, such as a fever and coughing, so there is concern that local clinics will find it difficult to manage cases. To help clinics prepare for possible simultaneous outbreaks, the Japanese Association for Infectious Diseases has compiled guidelines on treatment and diagnosis.

It is advised that in areas where there is a coronavirus outbreak, patients should, in principle, be tested for both the flu and coronavirus, so as not to overlook cases of COVID-19.

Advice depends on regional infection status

The guidelines offer recommendations on a four-point scale that reflects the infection situation in a given area. At level one, in a prefecture where no coronavirus cases are reported, it is advised that testing for COVID-19 is basically unnecessary, except for people who have visited areas with infections in the preceding two weeks. At level four, when an untraceable coronavirus case is reported in a locality over the preceding two weeks, COVID-19 tests are advised for all patients with a fever.

Influenza vaccines for children

The guidelines strongly recommend that children are vaccinated against the flu this coming winter as it spreads easily, especially among younger age groups.
The guideline also says it is important for children to be tested for both influenza and the coronavirus at the same time if possible, as well as for adults.

If a coronavirus test cannot be conducted immediately, patients can be diagnosed and treated for the flu first, then tested for the coronavirus about two days later depending on their condition.

The association wants doctors across Japan to make use of the guidelines to get through the coming winter season. It says they will be updated as new information comes to hand.

This information is accurate as of Nov. 13, 2020.