Health experts say cold, flu season will return in greater levels with masks off

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Posted at 7:11 AM, Jun 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-16 08:07:30-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Doctors say many people are now getting sick for the first time in more than a year with viruses other than COVID-19, like the cold or the flu.

“Even if you’re vaccinated against COVID remember that there’s other things circulating now,” said Dr. Laura Arline, Chief Quality Officer for BayCare Health System.

“If we’re into this post-pandemic environment, and people aren’t wearing masks as often, they may be loosening up on some of their hand hygiene and the things that have kept us so healthy outside of COVID. Then we’re going to see an uptick in things like flu and other respiratory viruses,” said Arline.

She says last year flu cases were almost non-existent.

“I can guarantee that there would be an uptick in our flu cases compared to last year. Pretty much last year... if somebody was sick with cold or flu-like symptoms it generally speaking was COVID for the most part,” said Arline.

As people return to work, experts say places should be prepared to see illnesses spread around.

“It’s important for these places to be prepared and to think about some of the things they were doing pre-pandemic to keep their employees healthy,” said Arline.

To protect yourself she suggests washing your hands often, staying at home if you’re sick even if you’re fully vaccinated, and wearing a mask.

“Those things that protected us during the pandemic, they’ll continue to protect us against upper respiratory infections and colds and the flu and those kinds of things,” said Arline.

Officials warn schools may also see an eruption of cold and flu cases when school starts in the fall.

“They’re all congregating so that makes it more likely that things will spread quickly among the kids and the kids go home and share that loveliness with their family,” said Arline.

Doctors say parents with newborns or young children should expect them to have a greater chance of getting sick since they weren’t able to socialize this past year like they normally would have.

“With that socialization you get some challenges, healthy challenges to the immune system. With the pandemic, they didn’t have that opportunity so I think we’re going to be seeing some of that in our younger kids. They just didn’t have a chance to develop their immune system because they really weren’t around illness all that much over the course of the pandemic,” said Arline.