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COVID & Our Other Viruses

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

There are significant challenges in understanding what exactly impacted the spread of COVID, what limited its spread, and what reduced the number of other viruses such as the flu and RSV. Now that #COVID restrictions are easing, we are again seeing a rise in other viruses. Is this related to how we initiate our testing? Does this have to do with increased travel? Might it have to do with more disregard to hygiene practices, such as washing hands and being mindful of our respiratory spray? May it even represent a culture who may have been engaging more in nature, taking more walks, even relaxing a bit more through the work day?

Many clinicians were noting that in their entire twenty year career, they had never seen the PICU without at least one child suffering from #RSV, yet COVID seemed to make this threat disappear. No one seems to understand why one of the most common infectious diseases, influenza, essentially vanished. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documented that seasonal influenza was responsible for 24,000 to 62,000 deaths during the 2019 and 2020 season.

According to CDC data, US clinical health labs and public health labs confirmed just 2150 flu cases between September 7th, 2020 and May 29th, 2021. For comparison, between October of 2019 and April of 2020, the CDC estimated that at least 39 million people contracted the flu. The CDC has developed a new test that will evaluate both A and B type seasonal flu viruses and SARS CoV-2 at the same time, and of course, it has been given Emergency Use Authorization by the US FDA. The CDC continues to recommend that all people six months and older get a yearly flu #vaccine. Last season, only 49.2 percent of Americans received the flu shot.

The current concern regarding outbreaks with viruses besides COVID is that not only are these viruses returning in incident, but they are returning sooner than their typical seasons previously. RSV cases increased 166 percent between April and May, for example. Influenza has presented earlier in the season than what is typical. Parainfluenza - responsible for many colds, bronchitis, croup, and #pneumonia - rose 424 percent between March and April and 189 percent from April to May. Seasonal coronaviruses, which typically emerge in the winter and deline in March, increased by 211 percent from March to April and continued into May. Rhinovirus and enterovirus cases were also increased.

Interestingly, with all these viruses at a minimum during the COVID #pandemic, many of us did not have the typical immune system challenge which helps prepare us for these higher exposure seasons. Pregnant women who suffer mild infections pass this immunity to their unborn so after birth, their little ones have some level of protection which has become a concern for current newborns who now lack this protection. Co-infections may be a bigger concern this year, as already there are reports of the very young being admitted to the hospital with as many as four respiratory illnesses simultaneously.

There does seem to be more evidence that COVID was already among us in December of 2019, so it may be really difficult to discern the truth within the data. An analysis of blood samples from 24,000 Americans (blood donations offered to the American Red Cross) taken early last year and the largest study to date to evaluate this matter demonstrated that there probably was rare and sporadic cases in the United States earlier than we were originally aware, but that it did not become widespread until late February.

My advice remains the same. Be smart. Live well. Get your face in the sun daily and your feet in the soil. Move. Limit toxins, both from the environment and within relationships. Prioritize sleep. Honor your needs and personal boundaries. Eat clean. Drink filtered water. Join my wellness program and we can help each other accountable.

Vaccine Updates

A federal judge in Texas has dismissed a lawsuit from 117 Houston Methodist Hospital workers who declined to get the COVID-19 vaccine and ultimately were suspended without pay. District Judge Lynn Hughes upheld the hospital's policy and said the vaccination requirement didn't break federal law, adding, "This is not coercion."

The hospital's choice "to keep staff, patients, and their families safer," took precedence over the individual freedoms to decline vaccines, particularly a vaccine which is still experimental. The right of the hospital to conduct "the business of saving lives" was a clear priority over medical freedom. Hughes said that employees can "freely choose" to accept or refuse the COVID-19 vaccine; if they refuse, they "simpy need to work somewhere else." This ruling sets a precedent for similar COVID-19 vaccine lawsuits across the country.

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