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COVID-19 Precautions Cut Transmission of Other Common Viruses

Flu and other common infections down 80 percent compared with similar time periods in previous years

TUESDAY, March 30, 2021 (HealthDay News) — COVID-19 mitigation efforts were associated with a dramatic decrease in rates of common respiratory viral infections, according to a study published online March 20 in Open Forum Infectious Diseases.

Pranay Sinha, M.D., from Boston Medical Center, and colleagues compared respiratory viral infections other than severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 in 2020 to corresponding periods in the previous five years. Findings were based on results of comprehensive respiratory panel polymerase chain-reaction (CRP-PCR) tests (BioFire Diagnostics) performed at Boston Medical Center from Jan. 1, 2015, to Nov. 25, 2020. For 2020, period 1 included 10 weeks before March 10 and period 2 included weeks 12 through 46.

The researchers found that the number of CRP-PCR tests was higher in 2020 versus any of the previous five years (period 1: 3,397 tests in 2020; range from 1,388 to 2,719 in 2015 to 2019; period 2: 6,976 tests in 2020; range from 2,285 to 4,977 in 2015 to 2019). The cumulative number of detected viruses per week in period 2 was significantly lower in 2020 (down 80 percent) for all the different respiratory viruses (influenza, parainfluenza viruses, metapneumoviruses, adenovirus, coronaviruses, enteroviruses, and respiratory syncytial virus) compared with the previous five years. In 2020 period 2, the odds of detecting a respiratory virus per test were significantly lower after adjusting for the level of medical care and patient age (adjusted odds ratio, 0.16). The phased “reopening” in Boston on July 20, 2020, coincided with the increase in cumulative virus detection around week 30.

“Institution and relaxing of COVID-19 community efforts and individual behaviors was associated with a significant decrease and subsequent increase in respiratory virus diagnoses,” the authors write.

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