Influenza, RSV, Strep A and COVID are spreading at alarming rates across the US, overwhelming hospitals and even causing a shortage of medicines for children. “I’ve been doing it for over 20 years and this fall-winter is like no other. It’s bananas,” says Dr. Shelly Vaziri Flais, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of medicine and a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “We always feared these viruses would come back, but then when they came, they came back too fast and too furious,” says Dr. Diego Hijano, an infectious disease specialist with a focus on pediatric infections at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Besides keeping up with vaccinations, what are the most effective ways to support immune health? We talked to Dr. Anant Vinjamoori, Physician, Chief Medical Officer at the Modern Age longevity society. “We need to recognize that the health of our immune systems is inextricably linked to how we age,” says Dr. Vinjamoori at Eat This, Not That! Health. “There are two main reasons why our immune system function weakens as we age: As we get older, our bone marrow loses its ability to produce T and B cells, which are key components of immune systems that orchestrate responses. Not only does our immune system weaken as we get older, but it also becomes more dysfunctional. Specifically, the immune system will start activating when it shouldn’t, damaging healthy tissue in the process. This process is known to as inflammation, and the slow-burning chronic inflammation that results from the aging process is known as “Flashing.’ There are several ways to get more of these vitamins. While supplements are great if you remember to take them, I find intravenous drip therapy and vitamin D3 injections to be a more effective way to make sure the body absorbs the most essential, immune-boosting nutrients faster. Some experts also recommend going back to mask wearing in group situations. “Everyone needs to know that masking really protects people from all three viruses,” says Dr. Hijano. “People are really reluctant to go back [to mask mandates]. Even if the numbers indicate that it would be beneficial for us, as a community, to all wear masks… I think it will be very difficult, even if recommended, for people to follow.” With so many viruses out there, it can be difficult to tell them apart, as many of the symptoms overlap – here are the symptoms of strep, flu, RSV, common cold and COVID to be aware of.Read on and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure signs you’ve already had COVID.
“A very painful sore throat, as well as tender lymph nodes in the neck suggest a sore throat,” Dr. Vinjamoori. “The presence of a cough makes a sore throat very unlikely.” Don’t hesitate to take your child to a doctor if you suspect strep throat. Other symptoms include fever, rash, pain, swelling, nausea, and vomiting. Some experts say two years of lockdowns have exacerbated the situation. “We have stopped our transmission of the virus”, says Dr. Kathryn Moffet, a pediatric infectious disease expert at West Virginia University Medicine. “We didn’t have the normal [circulation] where would you expect RSV and pneumonia [in young children]. A lot of what we’ve done with social distancing and masks [caused this.” Some children are presenting bizarre symptoms such as lumps behind their ears, eye issues, and drooling. “It could be we have altered patterns of immunity due to the pandemic that may have increased our vulnerability,” says Texas Children’s Hospital pathologist-in-chief James Versalovic. “But it could also be … different variants [of strep]. It could be a combination of factors. Nobody knows.”
“Cough tends to be more prominent and pronounced with RSV,” Dr. Vinjamoori. “RSV is very commonly acquired in families with young children, so if you have young children, this may be more likely.” “All hospitals are full right now,” says Dr. Michael Koren, Jacksonville director of clinical research. “There are wait times to get into the hospital emergency room. And hospital administrators have sent information to all doctors about trying to get people out of the hospital as quickly as possible. RSV doesn’t have a vaccine, but we’re working with that in clinical trials And this is an interesting virus because we didn’t think it was a real big deal because most people got it when they were young and we thought they were protected in our lifetime but there are several strains of this virus, and as you get older you become vulnerable again.”
“Fever and body aches tend to be the most prominent symptoms of the flu,” Dr. Vinjamoori. UK health authorities advise people not to mix in large groups if they feel unwell. “Both Covid-19 and the flu can cause serious illness or even death for the most vulnerable people in our communities, so it’s also important to avoid contact with other people if you are unwell to stop spreading infections during Christmas.” and the new year period,” Dr Maria Ramsaysaid the UKHSA director of public health programmes. When can we expect flu season to end? “The optimistic view is that we’ve had an early and tough season, and hopefully what will happen over the next couple of weeks is that all the numbers will start to go down,” says Dr. Helen Chu, an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist at the University of Washington. “But the pessimistic view is that this is just the beginning, and then we’ll see a couple of subsequent waves.”
Let’s not forget about the common cold, in the midst of all these dangerous viruses that are circulating. “Nasal congestion as the dominant symptom suggests a routine cold,” says Dr. Vinjamoori. Does it feel like suddenly everyone you know is sick? You are not imagining it. “Our immune system is still functioning well. As we normalize our behaviors again, it takes a while for the patterns to return to normal. All the viruses have started roaring back and in a disrupted pattern,” he says Dr. Shira Doron of Tufts Medical Center. “This is a consequence of our disrupted human interactions and disrupted travel. We are all so susceptible to colds because we haven’t had them for so long. No one needs to catch a cold to have a normal immune system. You are welcome to try and avoid colds and flu for the rest of your life and it won’t hurt you in any way to do so,” she said. “But population-wise, epidemiologically, it’s been disruptive.”
COVID is surging in China, causing great concern as new variants and mutations spread around the world. “However we look at it, the next few months are very likely to be quite challenging for China,” says Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a global health research institute at the University of Washington. “The populations at greatest risk in the world are those who have avoided many transmissions and have vaccination gaps. And this is exactly the case in China.” In the United States, a “surge in senior citizens” is causing an increase in hospitalizations. “Right now we have a wall of immunity built against the Omicron family — between injections and previous infections and combinations thereof — that seems to hold up young people quite well. But older people’s immune systems aren’t as strong,” says Dr. Eric Topol, physician and professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research. Topol believes “woefully inadequate” recall rates are contributing to the surge. “Everything points to a decline in immunity. If older people had their booster, the effect would be minimal.”
How to stay safe out there
Follow public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live: get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 Face maskdo not travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, do not enter homes with people you are not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene and to protect your life and the lives of others, do not visit anyone from these 35 places you’re most likely to catch COVID.