Masking, social distancing stopped nearly all transmission of RSV, flu in northern Ohio
COVID-19 mitigation efforts prevented the spread of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus by almost 100% in northern Ohio, according to research presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition.
“For many decades, masking, proper hygiene and isolation have been the backbone of infection control and prevention in health care facilities and other industries. These measures are typically regulated at institutional or government levels but are practiced at the individual level,” Osama El-Assal, MD, PhD, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio, told Healio Primary Care. “What happened during the COVID-19 pandemic was the utilization of those institutional prevention guidelines to the public. Our study showed that these measures worked and did prevent influenza and RSV at all levels. It really works!”
El-Assal and colleagues evaluated the prevalence of influenza A and B and RSV infections during peak respiratory seasons before and after the implementation of social distancing measures at Akron Children’s Hospital in Northeast Ohio. The analysis included viral assay data collected between Oct. 1, 2020, and April 30. These data were compared to infection rates during the two respiratory seasons prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Viral testing in the 2020-2021 respiratory season increased dramatically, according to El-Assal and colleagues. Most testing was conducted for SARS-CoV-2, while testing for influenza and RSV decreased significantly.
The incidence and positivity rate for RSV was 0% until one case was confirmed on March 14, which coincided with a relaxation of social distancing measures at Akron, according to the researchers. Comparatively, prior RSV incidence peaked in December at 28.9% during the 2018-2019 season and 24.7% during the 2019-2020 season. The average RSV incidence was 8.8% in both seasons preceding the pandemic.
No cases of influenza A and two isolated cases of influenza B were detected during the 2020-2021 season, El-Assal and colleagues reported. Prior incidence of influenza A peaked in February at 40.9% during the 2018-2019 season and 24.1% in 2019-2020; the average incidence was 13.6% and 6.1%, respectively. Meanwhile, incidence of influenza B peaked in January at 24% during the 2019-2020 season, with an average incidence rate of 6.8%. However, during the 2018-2019 season, incidence was low, with an average rate of 0.3%.
“Most of us understand our vulnerabilities, tolerances and risks,” El-Assal said. “It is time for people, especially individuals who have vulnerability or comorbidities, to adopt some of these simple, non-medicinal measures to protect themselves and others by avoiding crowds during seasonal infection seasons, practicing proper hygiene and masking to prevent the spread of infections to the most vulnerable.”