Sue Huang, director of the World Health Organization’s National Influenza Center at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research in New Zealand, said the country’s strict restrictions not only stopped Covid-19 but also wiped out RSV and influenza, a finding by Dr. Huang and colleagues published in Nature in February.
July 22, 2021, 1:43 p.m. ET
But when the country opened its borders with Australia, cases of RSV spiked within weeks as the virus preyed on a larger-than-usual group of susceptible children, many of whom were hospitalized.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in 20 years of work as a virologist,” said Dr. Huang. “Usually there is some pre-existing immunity due to the previous winter. If you don’t have this protection, it’s a bit of wildfire. The fire can just go on and the chain of transmission continues. “
While doctors can test young children to confirm a case of RSV and test many people with cold symptoms to rule out Covid-19, most people are unlikely to be aware of the specific respiratory virus that is causing their symptoms, said Dr. Kathyrn M Edwards, Professor of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“We’ll see each other again and share our viruses, and I think we may all be a little more susceptible to viruses that we haven’t seen before,” said Dr. Edwards. “Knowing what everyone has is hard to say. In adults, the symptoms are by and large the same and it is impossible to tell whether it is RSV, rhinovirus, parainfluenza or another cold virus. “
Satya Dandekar, an expert on viral infections and mucosal immunology, said that while isolation measures don’t weaken our immune system, other factors such as stress, poor sleep habits, and increased alcohol consumption could play a role in the individual’s immune system’s response to a respiratory virus.
“There will be a tremendously different response in the community between who reacts and handles infections well and who gets sick,” said Dr. Dandekar, chairman of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at the University of California -Davis School of Medicine. “When a person is exposed to a pathogen, the response of the immune system and cells must increase rapidly. Stress and other factors hamper the immune cell army a little and slow down and may not be able to react quickly enough to an attack so that the pathogen has enough time to get a grip on the host. “