Respiratory illnesses such as colds, pneumonia and bronchitis all recovered after Texas made the controversial decision to lift its mask mandate and reopen the majority of its businesses fully earlier this year.
While there was no spike in COVID-19 cases following Governor Greg Abott’s decision in March 2021, other viruses that receded as people started masking saw comebacks.
Researchers at the Houston Methodist Hospital discovered that the rhinovirus – the most common infection in humans – and the enterovirus – which causes cold-like symptoms – both returned to normal rates after falling sharply during the pandemic.
The number of cases of a common form of influenza rose 424 percent.
Health experts attribute the sharp decline in the virus and associated symptoms to people who wear masks and wear social distancing to prevent their contagious spread.
Texas was among the first states to lift all COVID-19 restrictions in early March. Weekly cases have since decreased by 60 percent, although other respiratory illnesses, which fell sharply in 2020, have apparently returned
After falling sharply at the start of the pandemic, rhinovirus and enterovirus cases began to rise as Texas slowly reopened and then rose when all mandates were lifted
Annual flu cases fell to long-term lows last flu season but are now increasing as mandates are rolled back
“This strong resurgence of seasonal respiratory viruses in Houston is not surprising given that mask requirements have been lifted in Texas and other precautions such as social distancing and occupancy restrictions in shops, restaurants and events have been removed.” Dr. Wesley Long, medical director for diagnostic microbiology at the Houston Methodist Hospital, said in a statement.
For the study published on the pre-print server medRxiv.org, the team examined data on respiratory pathogens in Houston.
They found that by the time the mask requirement was lifted, capacity limits for restaurants and bars were being relaxed, which was accompanied by an increase in virus cases.
The results showed that rhinovirus and enterovirus cases rose 85 percent from March to April, the first month without a mask requirement in the state.
Seasonal coronaviruses, which cause colds and usually appear in winter, rose 211 percent over the same period.
The most noticeable increase, however, was the percentage of parafluenza, a common virus that causes respiratory disease, which rose 424 percent in Houston from March to April.
Parafluenza cases rose over 400% when Texas lifted masking and social distancing requirements in March
From April to May, the parafluenza cases then increased by 189 percent.
“For more than a year, COVID-19 has been the leading cause of respiratory disease in the US, but now that we are easing restrictions, it is important for clinicians to recognize that other respiratory pathogens can cause disease spikes outside of their usual seasonal peaks.” ‘said Lange.
“Reports of non-COVID viral respiratory illnesses increasing after COVID restrictions are lifted have been reported in Australia and elsewhere, and we are now starting to see this in the US.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu cases fell 99 percent during the pandemic.
Only 1,316 cases were recorded from September 2020 to January 2021, compared to over 130,000 in the same period last year.
Two common forms of the flu, H3N2 and the B / Yamagata lineage of the virus, were not detected in the year.
While they could still circulate undetected, the possibility exists that the strains may have become extinct because they were unable to find viable hosts for a long period of time.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (pictured) has been criticized for his decision to lift COVID restrictions in March
Gov Abbot’s decision to lift the mask mandates and open the state completely was received with ridicule by many.
However, there hasn’t been a huge spike in COVID-19 cases in the state since then, and the numbers have declined more than 60 percent since early March.
“With medical advances in vaccines and antibody therapy drugs, Texas now has the tools to protect Texans from the virus,” Abbott said in a statement at the time.
“We must do more now to restore the livelihoods and normalcy of Texans by opening up Texas to 100 percent.
“Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not gone away, but from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospital stays and safe practices Texans are using, it is clear that government mandates are no longer needed.”
The governor also recently banned the use of vaccination cards in his state.
It seems that Texas may be heading for another spike in COVID in the near future, as the state has seen a massive surge in cases over the past two days, including over 9,000 cases on Wednesday after registering fewer than 1,000 on Tuesday – more than 1,000 1. percent increase in just two days.