If you or someone you know seems sick right now, you have no idea.
Yes, it may have something to do with the fact that many have been wearing masks and avoiding others over the past two years or more.
But that’s far from the whole story.
Researchers say there are many factors that influence the current misery, including chance, immune system characteristics, and the direct and indirect effects of the pandemic.
Why are so many people sick now?
Virus outbreaks vary naturally, making some years worse than others, but COVID-19 has certainly affected the natural pattern, said Pediatric Infectious Diseases, who directs the precision vaccine program at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Ofer Levy, an expert in
“It seems very likely that everything that has happened in the pandemic, such as travel, has changed some of these patterns,” he said.
Respiratory syncytial virus peak, more commonly known as RSV seems to have passed – It is not clear if this year will arrive earlier than usual, like 2021, which peaked in the summer, or if it will surge again later in the season.
Epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, who heads the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the flu outbreak in the United States was not as severe as it was in Australia over the summer, but simply earlier this year. said it could have happened.
influenza You may have already hit your head In some places, hospitalizations last week were down from the previous week.
Influenza vaccines appear to be suitable for strains circulating this year, but the most commonly circulating strain, H3N2, is known to cause more severe illness.
“Vaccine fatigue” has also led to below-average flu vaccination rates this year.that’s all 26% of American adults and 42.5% of children As of December 9th, I had a flu shot.
“The dynamics are so complex that it wouldn’t be surprising if something different happened this year,” said Al Ozonov, a pediatric infectious disease researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Broad Institute at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. says. “COVID has shattered all the standard relationships between viruses and it will take some time to readjust and return to a stable equilibrium.”
Is COVID-19 over yet?
Unfortunately, the pandemic isn’t over yet and it’s not clear when.
“We’re seeing an extraordinary increase,” Osterholm said, with COVID-19 deaths up 71% over the past three weeks and associated hospital and ICU bed occupancy up 22%. “The bottom line is that this is not being done,” he said.
The virus continues to evolve, but so far researchers aren’t worried about new variants.
The booster shots target both the original virus and the BA.5 variant that circulated earlier this year, but the current variant isn’t too far off, said Dr. Jeremy Luban says.
Otherwise, healthy people who have been vaccinated or infected in the past year should be well protected against severe illness. .”
Masking effect may be small
If previous masking has had an impact on the current disease outbreak, Ozonov does not believe it has had a significant impact. No significant differences were shown between regions that did not.
But in theory it is possible.
People are usually exposed to influenza when they have the flu or are vaccinated. Exposure to similar strains some time later can give a natural boost. can be different enough to make us sick.
Dr. Christine Moffitt, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, said: “Before the pandemic, we were all going through it.”
Masking to prevent these minor exposures may be one of many factors involved in the current disease outbreak.
“We’ve had the perfect storm,” she said, adding that “the population-level immunity needed to contain infection or prevent it from surging is lower than normal, and at the same time, everyone is fully equipped.” I took my mask off and came back to normal around the same time the weather started to get colder.”
Has COVID weakened our immune system?
Again, while this is theoretically possible, it’s unlikely to be the full explanation, said Dr. Duane Wesemann, who studies antibodies at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School. says.
COVID-19 may have altered the immune system in some way, as the immune system registers exposure through antibodies. But it’s also robust enough to handle years of isolation, Wesemann said.
COVID-19 has been a bigger threat than the flu, RSV, or the common cold, so it makes sense to protect yourself from it.
“We are still winning here.”
How can I avoid getting sick?
Experts say the same strategies that worked during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic are still working, and stacking them together is more effective than doing just one.
These strategies include vaccination. Both the flu and his COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective in preventing serious illness, but not all infections.
Masking is especially helpful in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation, Levy said.
If you don’t feel well please stay home.
wash your hands frequently with soap, 20 seconds or more.
For family gatherings, it makes sense to get a rapid COVID-19 test just before the gathering, especially if there are babies, the elderly or immunocompromised. Anyone with insurance is entitled to her eight free tests a month, and the federal government just reopened the portal. covid.gov/tests Allow people to request four additional tests via email.
Please contact Karen Weintraub at email@example.com.
Health and patient safety coverage on USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial opinion.