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Previously common illnesses rebound from Covid disruption

A digitally colored transmission electron microscope (TEM) image of individual norovirus particles

A digitally colored transmission electron microscope (TEM) image of individual norovirus particles
Picture: CDC / Charles D. Humphrey

With covid-19 decline in the United States.S. and people resuming their old ways, once routine contagious diseases predictably reappear after one year of pandemic suppression precautions.

Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Posted a health notice to doctors and caregivers in the southern United States, warning them of a recent increase in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases. As a result, they called for “broader testing for RSV in patients with acute respiratory disease who test negative” for covid-19.

RSV isn’t the only previously common infection that appears to be on the rise. Minnesota health officials on Tuesday warned a “significant” increase in norovirus, the highly contagious foodborne germ. Iwithin a week, Seattle health officials reported not one but two norovirus outbreaks in King County. Connecticut experimented his own cluster of norovirus last month. And according to national surveillance data, both VRS and norovirus have seen a recent spike in detection by testing labs, at least in some areas.

These diseases are not entirely harmless, especially for the most vulnerable groups. VRS is the leading cause of pneumonia in children under 1 year of age and efforts are underway to try to find a effective vaccine. And like anyone unlucky enough to have gotten norovirus Knows it well, it is not the kind of disease that usually kills, but its symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps can make you wish it would. Yet for the vast majority of the population, RSV is little more than a common cold, and the typical impact of none of these illnesses compares to the destruction caused by covid-19, which killed in less than 600,000 Americans in the past year and a half. (According to the CDC, RSV kills an average of 14,000 Americans per year, although this is probably an undercoverage, and norovirus kills an average of 900.)

The pandemic has had a little silver lining in that it lowered the incidence of more infections of garden varieties, including the seasonal flu, in large part by changing our behavior. Distancing and other interventions such as wearing a mask, but not foolproof in stopping the spread of covid-19, reduce the amount of other germs we throw up in our face or on food.

Of course everything this extra caution did not come without its burdens, and many people, especially vaccinated people, are happy to go back to their old ways. Despite some valid concerns about the emergence of a new coronavirus variants like Delta, first discovered in India, and the late daily vaccination rate in the United States, the pandemic here continues to be on the slow-down. (Gglobally, unfortunately, it will remain a threat until vaccination rates are high everywhere.)

Return to normal socialization will not be entirely risk-free, as these recent outbreaks of non-covid infections should remind us. But in a fun way, they’re the last sign that nature is healing.

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