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Doctors treating more viruses in children as COVID restrictions ease

One Tampa hospital has been inundated with children sick with RSV and HPIV.

We usually associate winter months with flu and cold season, with a lot of people sniffling and coughing around us. This past year, common viruses weren't spread as easily because of safety precautions taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to doctors. 

Children are especially susceptible vectors for viruses like RSV or parainfluenza, especially when they're in close quarters at daycare or in school. Many children spent time learning virtually, meaning the viruses didn't spread as wildly as they have in the past.

"With our isolation and when kids were not in school and our kids were not in daycare, we saw no viruses at all. Our normal respiratory viruses were nonexistent," explained pediatric pulmonologist at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital, Dr. John Prpich. 

He says his office was quiet through what would have been their busy season, in the period between November and January. He's starting to see all those cases in his office now.

"Our local virology, in terms of how much RSV and parainfluenza we're seeing it's really through the roof, especially over the past five weeks," said Dr. Prpich.

He suspects that increased vaccination rates in adults combined with eased COVID-19 restrictions like the elimination of mask mandates have led to more mass gatherings. Top it off with complacency for disinfection and hand-washing and close-quarter gatherings become a great environment for virus transmission.

While the spread of common viruses like RSV and HPIVs is expected, Dr. Prpich says you should still be cautious because COVID-19 is still spreading across the Tampa Bay area.

"I think if you have a child that was born premature or has asthma or another form of chronic lung disease...or people at home are high risk, still just being aware of what you're doing. Maybe now is still not the right time to have those giant mega playdates with a lot of kids."

Dr. Prpich says if you do want to get together and have your kids start socializing again, try to keep some of the same COVID-19 safety protocols in place. Factor in some social distancing, encourage frequent hand washing, tell your kids to avoid touching their mouths and eyes as much as possible and disinfect shared surfaces.

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