Jan. 19, 2024 – The acquainted symptoms are backmost again – a runny nose, coughing, aches, congestion, and possibly a fever. When nan at-home COVID-19 trial comes backmost negative, you caput to nan expert to spot if they tin fig retired what you’ve caught. At nan doctor, though, nan emblematic COVID and flu tests besides travel backmost negative. It could look for illustration a caller mysterious respiratory unwellness is making nan rounds.
Instead, respective emblematic respiratory viruses look to beryllium peaking astatine once. Doctors are reporting precocious levels of COVID, nan flu, and respiratory syncytial microorganism (RSV), arsenic good arsenic different “flu-like illnesses” that origin akin symptoms, specified arsenic nan communal cold, different coronaviruses, and parainfluenza viruses (which origin emblematic respiratory symptoms specified arsenic a fever, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, and a sore throat).
“Respiratory viruses are still very precocious correct now, arsenic you would expect astatine this clip of year,” said Brianne Barker, PhD, who researches viruses and nan body’s immune consequence arsenic an subordinate professor of biology astatine Drew University successful New Jersey. “Also, a adjacent number of patients look to person aggregate infections astatine once, specified arsenic flu and strep, which whitethorn origin disorder erstwhile patients see their symptoms.”
So, what should you do? Wear a disguise successful nationalist if you deliberation you person symptoms, Barker said. Stay location if you consciousness sick, peculiarly if you person a fever complete 100.4 F and signs of contagiousness, specified arsenic chills and musculus aches. Antiviral medications – specified arsenic Tamiflu for nan flu and Paxlovid for COVID – whitethorn thief if you drawback it soon enough, but otherwise, it’s astir important to enactment hydrated and remainder astatine home.
“The large image is we’re successful nan power of respiratory microorganism season, and nan large subordinate astatine nan infirmary correct now is nan flu, which seems to beryllium superseding everything else,” said Dhaval Desai, MD, head of infirmary medicine astatine Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital successful Atlanta. “I’m not judge if definite viruses are much fierce aliases different this year, truthful it’s difficult to opportunity precisely what’s going on, but we’ve surely seen an uptick since mid-December, and it hasn’t stopped.”
What Are nan Latest Trends?
The existent COVID-19 surge appears to beryllium astatine nan highest constituent since nan Omicron version infected millions successful December 2022, according to nan CDC's COVID wastewater data. Test positivity appears to beryllium stabilizing aft expanding since November, nan CDC’s COVID Data Tracker shows, though nan complaint was still precocious astatine 12.7% positivity during nan first week of January.
At that time, COVID-19 emergency section visits began declining, though hospitalizations were still connected nan emergence and deaths were up 14.3% from nan erstwhile week. As of Jan. 6, nan JN.1 version is driving astir of nan spread, accounting for 61.6% of COVID-19 cases successful nan U.S., according to CDC version data.
“COVID doesn’t look arsenic bad correct now arsenic successful nan days of Omicron, but nan problem is that it’s reliable to comparison because COVID cases aren’t reported successful nan aforesaid measurement arsenic before, and we don’t person that authorities data,” said Bernard Camins, MD, an infectious illness master and aesculapian head of infection prevention astatine Mount Sinai Health System successful New York City.
The bully news, he said, is that hospitalization rates are little than past year, considering nan number of group getting infected, “so there’s immoderate immunity to it now.”
“The different bully news is we person treatments for COVID, specified arsenic Paxlovid, that astir group tin return arsenic agelong arsenic they talk to their expert arsenic soon arsenic imaginable aft they get infected.”
Influenza rates, which dropped during nan tallness of nan COVID pandemic, look to beryllium backmost astatine emblematic levels, Camins said. This flu play started earlier than accustomed successful 2023 and will apt highest successful nan adjacent fewer weeks. The CDC’s FluView shows that trial positivity – now astatine 14% – is increasing, and hospitalizations and deaths are trending upward arsenic well.
Similarly, nan CDC’s national trends data for RSV shows that cases roseate arsenic precocious arsenic past year’s highest successful caller weeks but look to beryllium declining now, particularly successful nan Northeast and South.
Other viruses are circulating arsenic well, specified arsenic adenovirus, which tin origin a cold, sore throat, diarrhea, pinkeye, and different symptoms. Parainfluenza viruses peaked successful precocious November and saw different jump astatine nan extremity of December. Rhinoviruses, which origin nan communal cold, besides returned to normal highest levels alongside nan flu this season, Camins said.
“I haven’t gotten sick since 2021 and precocious sewage rhinovirus, and it went done my household. The symptoms weren’t severe, but I still person a lingering cough,” he said. “The instrumentality is that group weren’t getting exposed successful erstwhile years owed to masking and different precautions, but now group are getting exposed to galore of these viruses.”
What Should We Expect Next?
Peak respiratory microorganism play will apt proceed passim January and February and past statesman to slice arsenic nan upwind warms up, allowing for outdoor activities, amended ventilation, and higher humidity.
“One of nan reasons why we spot truthful galore infections astatine this clip of twelvemonth is related to humidity, erstwhile nan respiratory droplets containing these viruses enactment successful nan aerial longer and nan immune consequence successful our chemoreceptor really useful little good successful barren air,” Barker said. “Evidence indicates that having increases successful humidity tin thief get free of immoderate of nan viruses successful nan aerial and thief our immune response.”
In nan meantime, Barker suggests taking precautions, stocking up connected at-home tests, and staying location erstwhile you're sick. She precocious recovered from an precocious respiratory infection and has decided to deterioration a disguise successful nationalist places again. She tested antagonistic connected each imaginable trial astatine her doctor’s agency and doesn’t want to repetition nan experience.
“It reminded maine really overmuch I don’t bask having an infection,” she said. “I’m consenting to deterioration a disguise astatine nan market shop if I don’t person to spell done that again. I’m taking attraction of myself and others.”
In addition, don’t hesitate to get tested, Desai said, particularly if an antiviral could help. After getting a respiratory microorganism successful November, he had a precocious fever and sweating and decided to spell to his doctor. He tested affirmative for influenza A, aliases H1N1, which nan CDC’s FluView says was nan astir often reported flu strain astatine nan extremity of December.
“It kicked maine harder than different illnesses successful caller years, but I did return antivirals, and it was retired nan doorway successful astir 4 days,” he said. “My mom, who is immunocompromised and successful her 70s, besides sewage it but took an antiviral moreover sooner and sewage complete it successful astir 24-36 hours.”
For nan adjacent mates of months, it’s besides not excessively precocious to get vaccinated against nan astir prevalent viruses, particularly COVID, nan flu, and RSV. The astir susceptible groups, specified arsenic young children and older adults, could particularly use from vaccination, Camins said.
“With RSV, for instance, location are vaccines for pregnant women to protect their infants,” he said. “And though we don’t person awesome information to opportunity whether nan existent COVID vaccine is protective against infection, we cognize it still protects against terrible illness and death.”
As 2024 continues, experts said they’re looking guardant to much effective at-home tests for COVID and nan flu, amended flu vaccines, and caller investigation connected nan body’s immune consequence to these respiratory viruses.
“Disease prevention is key, irrespective of what’s surging and what we’re dealing pinch correct now,” Desai said. “Think astir your consequence factors and what you’re doing wide this twelvemonth for your wellness and wellness – whether regular beingness exams aliases crab screenings, based connected your age. There’s powerfulness successful staying patient and advocating for ourselves erstwhile we’re emotion well.”