Increase in respiratory diseases after mask order dropped

Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 4:29 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Doctors across the country and here in Alabama are keeping an eye on other infectious respiratory diseases other than COVID-19. Some are expecting an increase in those diseases over the summer and heading into winter.

The country and world fought COVID-19 by wearing masks, social distancing, and proper hand hygiene practices. But many states have dropped mandatory face mask orders and other practices. That’s why doctors expected to see an increase in other respiratory infectious diseases like the flu or the common cold.

Face masks along with social distancing helped reduce the threat of influenza last year, but the CDC is warning doctor’s offices to be on the lookout for other infectious diseases springing up.

“RSV - that’s respiratory syncytial virus. We have seen an increase in that. We have seen increases in human metapneumovirus. The respiratory adenovirus, the common cold virus we encounter very frequently,” said Dr. Wesley Willeford with the Jefferson County Department of Health.

Dr. Willeford said with so many people ready to resume their old lives without COVID restrictions - such as wearing masks - other infectious diseases will spread again. RSV has been spreading mostly in children.

“Just good common sense hygiene practices so if your kid is sick, you want to make sure they are not around other people. Move them off to the side so they will not be spreading whatever virus they picked up,” Willeford said.

While these infectious diseases are not as transmissible as COVID, Willeford said practicing those learned safety skills such as wearing masks and washing your hands may be able to keep them under control.

“It’s a tool that is available. I think that is something people should recognize - if we do have a bad season one thing or another we know we can turn to this as a reliable means to control the spread of a lot of respiratory viruses,” Willeford said.

Flu cases may have been low last year, but doctors are already concerned there may be a more severe outbreak this year. Wearing masks and coughing into your sleeve are going to be more effective against some of these infectious diseases because they are not as contagious as COVID.

As for flu, with fewer cases last year, the country has less immunity and vaccines may be hard to get because of the lack of flu to build the right vaccine. So watch out and keep masks available.

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