Doctors say that as children come out of their homes after a lockdown related to COVID-19, common viruses that have almost disappeared during the pandemic are also reappearing.
“Pediatric hospitals are usually quiet at this time of the year,” said Dr. Fatima Kakkar, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at CHU Sainte-Justine in Montreal. “But now we are seeing a surge in respiratory infections.”
She said that the level of non-COVID disease is what Kakkar usually sees in the fall, when children are out at daycare centers or schools.
Although the public health measures taken last year—including social distancing, wearing masks, and staying at home—were used to stop the spread of COVID-19, they also have the side benefit of preventing other respiratory viruses, including colds and respiratory syncytial virus. (RSV) and human parainfluenza viruses that cause croup.
But experts say this also means that because children have not been exposed to these viruses for a long time, they have not established the antibodies that they would normally produce – and they will not have the immunity that they might otherwise have.
“What happened to us is that we…have never been in contact,” said Dr. Alison McGill, an infectious disease expert and microbiologist at the Sinai Health Center in Toronto.
“Now that we are back to normal, the children can see each other, we are starting to see those infections [again] In children. “
Children usually recover from most of these diseases on their own, but Kakkar said that pediatricians are particularly worried about the rise in RSV. She said that although this is a common virus, it can cause breathing problems in babies and young children, which are very serious and require hospitalization.
Last month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Give health warnings Notify health care providers that RSV cases are on the rise in some parts of the country, and ask them to test children with acute respiratory symptoms for RSV after excluding COVID-19.
According to the CDC, RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under one year of age.
The flu will come
Kaka said that a respiratory virus that doctors have not seen is influenza.
However, after a year when there is basically no flu season, mainly due to COVID-19 preventive measures, the flu is expected to return this fall.
The doctor said that although our immune system may not be ready for the flu this year, there is still good news.
“People are worried that the flu will make a comeback. But for the flu, we have a safe and effective vaccine,” said Dr. Ellen Foxman, an immunologist at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut.
“If you haven’t had a flu vaccine before, this is a good year for flu vaccination,” Foxman said, noting that she vaccinates three children every year.
Although there are more and more respiratory infections in children, doctors say that parents should not panic.
“It’s no big deal for most kids,” McGill said.
In addition, she said, parents can use several of the same precautions they learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to help prevent the spread of the re-emerging child virus.
“Wash your hands,” McGill said. “We know that simple things can reduce the risk of respiratory viral infections.”
“[There’s] There is good evidence that washing your hands five times a day can reduce the risk by about 30%, whether it is giving or receiving. “
Kakkar said that staying at home when sick, if children show symptoms, letting them stay at home is also a behavior taken during COVID-19, and this behavior needs to continue.
In addition, parents should now be prepared to deal with viruses that they would not normally think of before the fall.
“Pretend it is October,” she said.