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80% decline in other respiratory viral infections due to Covid-19 protocols: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on March 24, 2021

The infections were diagnosed using RT-PCR tests, which screened for 20 common respiratory pathogens, and positive results were recorded

A study led by researchers at Boston Medical Centre (BMC) has showed an exponential decline in the rates of common respiratory viral infections, such as influenza due to Covid-19 protocols.

Coronavirus protocols, especially face masking and social distancing, have led to an approximately 80 per cent reduction in cases of influenza and other common viral respiratory infections. This was calculated after comparing with similar time periods in previous years, before wearing masks, physical distancing, and school closures were implemented to prevent Covid-19.

Also read: Covid-19 infection after vaccination possible but rare

The results, published online in Open Forum Infectious Diseases, suggested that public health measures used to prevent Covid-19 transmission could be useful in helping prevent other respiratory viral infections.

“We know viruses that cause the common cold and pneumonia are spread through close contact, aerosols and/or droplets, which is why we decided to look into how the measures implemented to prevent the spread of Covid-19 may have impacted the incidence of other common viral respiratory illnesses,” said Manish Sagar, MD, an infectious diseases physician and researcher at BMC and the study’s corresponding author.

Methodology

For the study, the researchers analysed documented respiratory viral infections at BMC for certain time periods between January 1, 2015, and November 25, 2020.

These infections were diagnosed using RT-PCR tests, which screened for 20 common respiratory pathogens, and positive results were recorded.

The authors excluded positive and negative results for SARS-CoV-2 tests to focus on other common respiratory illnesses prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The year 2020 was divided into two specific periods. The first, Period 1, represented the time before the implementation of mask-wearing, physical distancing, and school closures (Weeks 1-10 from January 1 - March 10, 2020).

The second, Period 2, represented the time after the implementation of these practices to stop the transmission of Covid-19 (Weeks 11-46, March 11 - November 25, 2020).

Also read: Covid-19 vaccine uptake did not change proportion of vaccine-hesitant adults: Survey report

The researchers analysed the number of viral infections during periods 1 and 2 for 2015 - 2019 and compared these to the 2020 results.

Findings

In 2020 period 2, after the implementation of measures to stop Covid-19, newly detected respiratory viruses were approximately 80 per cent lower compared to the same time period from 2015 to 2019.

In contrast, in 2020 period 1, before Covid-19 prevention measures, there were more respiratory virus infections compared to 2015 to 2019.

Published on March 24, 2021

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