Massachusetts infectious disease physicians are reporting a resurgence in cases of the common cold and the flu after the state lifted mask mandates.
Throughout the pandemic, precautions taken to stop the spread of COVID-19 all but eliminated other common viruses.
So far this flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported just one influenza-associated pediatric death nationwide, compared with 199 the previous season. And a study published in September in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report revealed a staggering 98 percent decrease in flu activity in the first months of the pandemic.
“Most of us in infectious disease really attributed that to masks — not just masks, but the combination of masks, people working largely from home, social distancing, all of those measures that have been in place for the last year,” said Dr. Joshua Barocas, an infectious diseases physician at Boston Medical Center.
But as vaccination rates increase and such precautions are slowly scrapped, other viruses will start to resurge, starting with colds and other viruses later this summer, and the flu come fall and winter.
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory about increased cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, across parts of the southern United States — something they hadn’t seen since April 2020, when cases “decreased rapidly.” RSV is a cold-like respiratory illness that produces symptoms similar to COVID, and can cause severe illness in older adults and young children.