Summer Comeback Possible for Viruses and Other Bugs
This past winter, Covid threw out the book on infectious diseases.
Instead of the traditional flu season, the U.S. experienced an unprecedented confluence of respiratory illnesses that competed with Covid to sicken most Americans at some point, including invasive strep infections, the flu, RSV, enteroviruses, and other respiratory ailments.
It might still not be over.
A spring rise in human metapneumovirus was recently reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The respiratory virus HMPV, which is related to the RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), is typically transferred by coughing, sneezing, or touching objects that have been touched by someone who has the virus.
Dr. Buddy Creech, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, stated, “We’ve seen a ton of HMPV.” According to Creech, the majority of instances just involve wheezing and “lots of snot.”
Despite the increase, the CDC stated that a summer-wide HMPV outbreak appears improbable.
An agency spokeswoman wrote in an email that the current level of HMPV activity “is not remarkable,” adding that there is little chance for the virus to spread.
What lies in store for the summer if Covid has turned common seasonal illnesses on their heads?
Dr. Anthony K. Leung, an infectious disease expert at the Cleveland Clinic, said: “You can never really predict the future, but I would hope that we’ll have a boring summer.”
Childhood ailments including croup, strep A, and RSV, a winter virus that spiked during the summers of 2021 and 2022, have been on the rise for a number of years.
Summer travel is just getting started even though the United States appears to have steadied for the time being. As we approach the summer of 2023, experts in infectious illnesses are on high alert due to slight increases in other viruses.
How many Covid instances are present at any given time is unknown. Despite ongoing wastewater monitoring, the CDC is not keeping track of cases. Currently, such samples contain high levels of Covid in some regions of the nation, like New York City.
It’s too early to tell if those cases will usher in a fresh wave of serious illness. People’s risks of contracting an infection will climb when temperatures rise simply by congregating indoors in climate-controlled spaces, behind closed windows, and so on.
According to Jodie Guest, an epidemiology professor at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, “just like in the winter, anytime you’re indoors together, and someone has it, it’s pretty easily spreadable.”
Positively, the CDC reports that since the start of the year, hospitalizations due to Covid have steadily decreased.
The term “enterovirus” is used to describe a wide range of viruses, including the common summer cold and HFM. Coughing and sneezing are the main ways that these viruses are disseminated.
Rashes, fever, appetite loss, and sore throat are just a few of the symptoms that can be brought on by enteroviruses, which are frequently minor.
According to Dr. Amina Ahmed, director of pediatric infectious diseases and immunology at Charlotte, North Carolina’s Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital, “that’s the virus we anticipate seeing in the summertime.”
Enteroviruses can occasionally cause serious illness. For instance, acute flaccid myelitis, also known as AFM, is a polio-like disorder that affects children. Enterovirus D68 has been associated to AFM. Patients, who are mostly children, experience unusual arm or limb weakness.
Cases would appear in the late summer on average every other year before the pandemic. Doctors would have anticipated a spike in 2021 if that pattern had persisted throughout Covid. That didn’t happen.
It is unknown if the virus will resume its old behaviors as of 2023. Ahmed remarked, “We’re always on the alert.
Lyme, Norovirus and other Vacation Bugs
Various diseases can be carried by bugs in various parts of the world.
Americans are itching to travel more frequently now that the pandemic has been going on for three years. According to doctors, this impulse may also cause an upsurge in travel-related illnesses.
Always keep in mind that strange and unpredictable things exist, Leung advised. “Take safety measures.”
The norovirus, which is occasionally connected to cruising, can result in days of vomiting and diarrhea.
Many of these diseases are contagious when they come into touch with contagious droplets. Always wash your hands before eating or handling anything. Reduce your time with others if you are ill in order to keep them safe.
However, not all seasonal illnesses transfer from person to person.
According to Dr. Michael Angarone, an infectious disease specialist at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, “from spring until late summer and early fall, the infections we worry about are frequently related to exposure to different insects.”
Tropical regions have mosquitoes that can spread diseases like West Nile, dengue, and malaria. A unusual incidence of malaria was discovered on May 30 in a person bitten by an Anopheles mosquito in Sarasota and Manatee counties in Florida.
There are at least 30,000 new cases of the tick-borne illness in the United States each year, and Lyme disease cases peak in the summer. The CDC issued a warning in March regarding an increase in babesiosis cases, a separate tick-borne illness that is spreading throughout the Northeast. Babesiosis signs and symptoms include:
- Headaches and body aches
- Muscle and joint pain
If you’re going to be in the outdoors, Angarone advised, “be sure to protect yourself by using repellents, long pants, and long sleeve shirts to prevent mosquitoes and ticks from biting you.”
The sooner you locate the tick and remove it, the lower your risk of contracting an infection, he explained.
Some infectious disease specialists are worried about a minor increase in mpox cases this spring in Chicago as Pride events and other mass gatherings take place in the summer.
Mpox cases are “predicted to spike up a little bit over the summer,” said to Dr. Michael Saag, associate dean for global health at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.
Mpox typically spreads via intimate personal contact.
“Mpox does not have a season. It truly comes down to how individuals interact, said Guest. We want to be very clear about this when it comes to monitoring and immunizing people.
For gay and bisexual men, who make up the vast majority of cases, this is extremely essential. There are vaccinations and therapies for mumps.