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Deaths are up 6% in the US over the last two weeks, even as cases are down 14%, so what gives? First and foremost, case counts are likely a vast underestimate of total cases because of the wide availability of at-home tests. Most reported tests are from doctor’s offices or hospitals, but the majority of people just test at home, and those never get reported. Then there’s the fact that our booster rates are extremely low. Two-thirds of the country hasn’t been boosted at all, so they’re much less protected, even if they were initially vaccinated. This is especially true in those 65 and older, who make up a large proportion of the increase in deaths. One other possibility is that there are more people who have co-infections, meaning they are sick with both COVID and the flu or RSV, for example, which tends to correspond with more severe illness. Long story short: get boosted, especially if you’re 65 and up - it could very well save your life.
The New York Department of Health is doing regular wastewater surveillance after a paralytic polio case was found last year, and wastewater testing showed that there was poliovirus circulating in multiple counties in the state, including parts of New York City. They’ve continued to test, and in certain areas, those tests were negative for a while during the winter and have tested positive again more recently, as was the case in Orange County, NY toward the end of December. What it means is that polio is likely still circulating, but in lower numbers than when testing first started. There’s very little action that employers need to take, but as an individual, make sure your kids get the polio vaccine on schedule!
Unfortunately, yes. There are lots of people who have tested positive for more than one virus at a time, including COVID and flu or flu and RSV. It’s more likely to happen in kids, as well as seniors and those with weakened immune systems. Pediatric emergency departments are seeing more co-infections, which a new CDC study shows tend to be more severe, on average, than when kids are sick with just COVID or just the flu. The good news is that the way to prevent one is the same way to prevent the others - get the COVID and flu shots, and wear a mask in crowded indoor places and around sick people.
A new study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that it has to do with our noses. When we’re infected with a virus, cells in our noses actually work to combat pathogens by releasing “vesicle swarms” that combat the virus. When temperatures are colder, our nose cells don’t release as many of these vesicles and they don’t work as well to fight the virus, which is one explanation for something that most laypeople already knew - we get more upper-respiratory illnesses like colds and the flu in the winter!