Respiratory viruses returning as pandemic restrictions loosen

As restrictions loosen on mask-wearing and social distancing, other respiratory viruses that have been quiet this past year are making a comeback.

At North Seattle Pediatrics, doctors are seeing an uptick in upper respiratory infections.

"Congestion, runny nose, sore throat, and sometimes fever. We've been seeing a little more of it in the last couple of months," said Dr. Daniel Hibbard, MD.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center tracks what viruses are circulating in the Seattle area through their Seattle Flu Study and found almost all respiratory pathogens were wiped out due to pandemic safety precautions.

"Last winter there was no flu, no RSV, no metapnuemonavirus, etc…" said Trevor Bedford, Associate Professor at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

As masks come off and students return to school, those viruses are returning and they may produce symptoms similar to COVID-19, which can be worrisome for parents with sick children.

"What I'm recommending to families that are asking this question is first and foremost err on the side of safety and nobody that has sick symptoms should be around people and keep them isolated and at home away from school," said Dr. Hibbard.

Even with the resurgence of non-COVID viruses, Bedford says there is no telling what this year's cold and flu season will look like.

"Basically we skipped a year and during that year flu kept evolving and people’s immunity waned a bit so based upon that we would expect a large flu season this 2021-2022 winter season, but on the other hand people have maybe learned some things over the course of the pandemic like staying home when they’re sick and wearing masks and handwashing," said Bedford.

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