Tech & Science dictionary


[ twin-dem-ik ]

What does twindemic mean?

Twindemic refers to the dual threat of a severe flu outbreak on top of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our 2020 Word of the Year should come as no surprise. Find out what it is and read all about it here.

Related words

virtual school, infodemic, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, wet market, contact tracing

Where does twindemic come from?

The term twindemic blends twin, here meaning “twofold” or “double,” and pandemic, a global outbreak of a disease, such as COVID-19. In other words, a twindemic represents “twin pandemics” of flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Twindemic may also be informed by a word closely related to pandemic, epidemic—a term for a widespread but more temporary disease outbreak that is often used in the context of seasonal influenza (flu, for short) outbreaks. A blend similar to twindemic is infodemic, which combines information and epidemic.

Learn more about infodemic in our entry for the word, and discover how a pandemic differs from an epidemic in our article “‘Epidemic’ vs. ‘Pandemic’ vs. ‘Endemic’: What Do These Terms Mean?”

Twindemic was popularized by an August 2020 article by Jan Hoffman in The New York Times. Her article discussed concerns among health and medical experts that people would not get flu shots (vaccinations) due to various fears that getting those shots would make them more vulnerable to COVID-19. Such expert concerns, raised again in 2021, involved the possibility that increased flu infections could magnify the COVID-19 pandemic and overwhelm the healthcare system—resulting in a dual crisis dubbed a twindemic.

Hoffman credited Dr. L.J. Tan of the Immunization Action Coalition as an “early promoter” of the term twindemic. In an earlier, apparently independent coinage in July 2020, Twitter user @MaydNMerica offered twindemic as a term for two simultaneous pandemics of H1N1 and COVID-19.

After the mention in The New York Times, use of term twindemic increased in media reports about the potential crisis. In 2021, it came to be commonly used in discussion of flu season and in medical and public health messaging encouraging people to get flu shots, particularly amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

Twindemic is used differently than flurona, which is an informal term referring to a case of an individual person being simultaneously infected with both the flu and the COVID-19 virus. 

Examples of twindemic

Experts are saying to get a flu shot before October to prevent a “twindemic.” Just got mine at CVS for free.
@sisi_ross, August 25, 2020
The concern about a twindemic is so great that officials around the world are pushing the flu shot even before it becomes available in clinics and doctors’ offices.
Jan Hoffman, New York Times, August 16, 2020
Flu Season Could Pose "Twindemic" For 2020, Doctors Say
Dr. Maria Simbra, CBS Pittsburgh (headline), August 19, 2020

Who uses twindemic?

Prominent use of the term twindemic in media coverage helped further spread the new word into mainstream use by journalists, health experts, public figures, and in everyday discussion.

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of twindemic like most terms we define on, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of twindemic that will help our users expand their word mastery.