DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — COVID in schools is a major topic of conversation, but it is not the only virus kids are dealing with this season. Doctors are seeing more kids than normal getting sick from other respiratory illnesses.
The flu season in 2020 was nearly non-existent, with most people isolating at home and taking precautions against COVID-19.
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“We didn’t see the usual kind of respiratory viruses that we typically see,” Dr. Patrick Gavigan, pediatric infectious disease physician at Penn State Health, said.
However, when restrictions started to lift in early 2021, things changed. Gavigan said the number of kids getting sick with respiratory viruses other than COVID started to rise — faster than doctors expected.
“Usually again, those kind of start in the winter months, but we really started seeing high RSV activity as early as June, July,” Gavigan said.
One reason for that rapid rise is because so many kids spent over a year at home. Since they were mostly isolated from their peers, they were not exposed to many of these viruses.
“Usually each year, new kids are exposed to it, they develop some immunity towards it,” Gavigan said.
While doctors have the most data on respiratory viruses, Gavigan says it is possible there is a rise in other infections as well.
“Anecdotal reports of people seeing increases in bacterial infections and things like that,” he said.
Once schools return to a consistent in-person schedule and COVID surges die down, Gavigan expects the numbers of kids sick to settle.
“My best guess is that it would kind of go back to what we had seen pre-pandemic,” he said.
Until then, families can still take precautions, the way they have been doing with COVID-19.
“The usual pediatric vaccines,” Gavigan said. “The flu vaccine is important and helpful.”
With multiple viruses circulating, Gavigan says it can be hard to tell what a kid is dealing with. He said parents should monitor children’s symptoms the same way they would with a COVID case, like making sure they are not having trouble breathing and a fever does not last more than a few days.