Dear Dr. K; Is it just me or is there a

 Dear Dr. K; Is it just me or is there a

he- –  of a lot of cold and flu this winter?

It’s not just you.  Covid-19 is adding to its historical legacy by this resurgence of other respiratory infections.  According to epidemiologists (scientists who study the incidence and distribution of diseases) this is unprecedented.   For instance, hospitalization rates for both adults and children for influenza are the highest in over twenty-five years. 

The simple explanation is that the cumulative load of infections that would have occurred over the past three years, but didn’t due to mask wearing and social isolation, are now making up for lost time. 

Another factor that markedly attenuated influenza was the decrease in global travel.  The influenza virus has always relied on our “small global community created by travel” to infect the maximum number of humans.  Now with global travel returning to pre-Covid frequency the flu virus has hitched a ride. 

RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) has used a different strategy.  Normally RSV infects a small portion of young children each season.  The small numbers have kept it from being epidemic or pandemic.  Also, once infected the child develops resistance.  But for three years many children have “missed the illness” leading to a very large population of susceptible hosts.  With more children all getting sick at once, the trickle-down effect has been a spread to older adults whose immunity has waned over the years.  So once again hospitalization rates for children but now also older adults are unprecedented.   Then add on all the other “cold viruses” such as Rhinovirus and Coronavirus into the “catch-up” mix and you have a lot of sick people out there. 

Respiratory bacteria also follow the Darwinian mantra of survive and propagate.  Some of the leaders in the bacterial pack are Pneumococcus, Streptococcus, Hemophilus, Moraxella and Mycoplasma.  The relaxing of social isolation and mask use have allowed them to play “catch up”.

A few practical strategies to lessen your chance of illness include the usual hand washing advice.  But, nasal saline rinses at the end of the school day or work day can provide an additional mechanism of protection.  Finally, getting a flu vaccine has value.  Many Americans are fed up with all of the Covid vaccines and have consequently avoided their usual annual flu shot.

Comments are closed.