Cold and flu numbers spike as Houstonians start going out again, doctors say

Charly Edsitty Image
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
Colds and the flu return as Houstonians start going out again
Houston-area doctors have reported a spike in cases of the common cold and flu, and they believe it is tied to masks coming off and a return to normalcy.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As we head into the summer months, you may find yourself sniffling and sneezing, but no, it's not because of COVID-19.

Doctors in the Houston area noticed a big decline in cases of the common cold and the flu during the pandemic.

The summer months are usually a time when cold and flu are at a low, but now, Houston-area doctors are seeing a spike in these cases, and they believe it's because more people are going out, and we are also losing the masks.

"In March, you can see the rapid decline in all these other seasonal viruses starting back in March of 2020 when we went into lockdown," Dr. Wesley Long, Medical Director of Microbiology at Houston Methodist, said.

As the world was trying to avoid catching COVID-19, we saw cases of other more common viruses and infections drop dramatically.

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A virologist says this is most likely, but we'll have to wait to know more about the epidemiology of the new COVID-19 variants.

In Houston last May, only 10 to 28 cases of non-COVID respiratory diseases were being reported per week.

Dr. Long was part of a study with Houston Methodist on this, and says their findings reveal it's thanks, in part, to all the COVID-19 restrictions.

"The two most important things: the distancing or staying at home, and the masks, the widespread masking," Dr. Long said.

So, if you find yourself with cold-like symptoms, don't dismiss them entirely. You still need to stay on guard.

"It's really important that you stay home, because you might be sick and if you're not vaccinated, you need to get a COVID-19 test," Dr. Long advised.

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One of the silver linings to the pandemic is with more people using face coverings, keeping physical distance and keeping their hands cleaner, viral infections such as the common cold have decreased.

If you're trying to dodge any kind of illness this summer, Dr. Long says you should try to maintain social distancing and keep washing your hands.

"I think if you don't want to get sick and you have to go into an environment that will be crowded, like the store or an airplane, I think it's fine to choose to wear a mask," Dr. Long said.

If you can't tell if the symptoms you are experiencing are allergies or illness, Dr. Long says it's best to go get tested for COVID-19 so you're not spreading it to others.

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