Protected immunity from COVID-19 leads to uptick in other illnesses in NYS

WKBW 7 News Buffalo
WKBW 7 News Buffalo

For almost three years we've been protecting ourselves from COVID-19 by masking up and isolating, but doctors say it is now leading to an uptick in cases of other respiratory viruses and infections.

"Because of the measure we used during the pandemic to minimize the number of covid cases, early on lockdowns, later on masks, distancing, increasing interactions we were exposed to a minimal number of non-covid respiratory viruses," explained Dr. Thomas Russo, Chief, Division of Infectious Diseases, Medicine, at University at Buffalo's Jacobs School of Medicine.

"As a result, our immunity was not reinvigorated. It was not built up, and this has resulted in decreased protection," said Russo. "I'm hoping, and I anticipate, this will be the worst winter for all of these respiratory viruses piling on and causing a large number of infections."

"If we get through this winter I think our immune systems will catch up, and next year we should settle into a more normal pattern," said Dr. Russo.

Across New York respiratory illness cases are high. That includes COVID-19, RSV and the flu. Dr. Russo said on Thursday that Erie County has the highest number of influenza cases and hospitalizations per capita in New York.

Doctors say you should go to the hospital if you have a high fever and/or breathing becomes difficult. Here's how to tell the differences between RSV, flu and COVID-19 symptoms.

Erie County Department of Health said the county and state is "experiencing an earlier-than-usual and rapid increase in laboratory-confirmed flu cases." Erie County’s weekly total flu cases went from 771 cases from November 12 to 589 cases on November 26, the latest weekly data.

The latest data from the New York State Department of Health shows that there were 27,171 reported flu cases in the state in the week that ended on November 26. The highest number of weekly cases in the last three years was 17,233.

New York State Flu Tracker

New York State COVID-19 Tracker

RSV Trends by State

“We’ve been having 7-10 flu patients admitted at one time whereas in 2018-2019 you may have two," said Dr. Sam Cloud, ECMC's Associate Medical Director.

Dr. Cloud said these infectious illness leave patients in the hospital longer, because individuals can't be discharged right away.

"We are probably 40 to 50 patients more in the hospital prior to what we would be before the pandemic," said Cloud.

Dr. John Sellick, Hospital Epidemiologist at Kaleida Health said it's been very busy.

"{Oishei} Children’s Hospital was hit hard by RSV, and that’s starting to wind down a little bit.” said Dr. Sellick. He said Buffalo General and Millard Filmore Suburban Hospitals are seeing a high number of COVID-19 and flu cases, along with RSV in adults.

Doctors recommend the best way to build back your immunity is good sleep, healthy eating, exercise, reduce stress, get vaccinated and hydrate.

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