For nearly a month now, Sean Merriam has been walking around town with a stuffy nose and a mysterious cough that rattles in his lungs. He knows it’s not Covid, because he tests regularly and it’s not the flu he recovered from a few weeks ago.
The culprit could be the respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, which has been on the rise this season, but he’s not sure. It could be anything, really.
Mr Merriam, 55, a video editor who wheezed as he walked through McCarren Park in Brooklyn on Thursday said: “I went through periods where I thought it was gone, then it was gone. I coughed, and I thought, yeah, it’s still there. . “It won’t go away.”
His mysterious virus is among the illnesses that hit New Yorkers this winter with startling and miserable symptoms – a toxic cocktail made worse by cramped apartments. crowded, subway cars and classrooms, where masks are now not required.
In the face of such a relentless onslaught, New Yorkers seem to have mixed emotions, feeling scared, tired, and resigned to a new “new normal.” They are living not only between the coronavirus and its seemingly endless variations, but also a host of other viruses. Infectious disease experts have noted that other respiratory diseases, such as nasal viruses and adenoviruses, are also circulating.
Lester Sykes, 35, who lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn and is walking Raja, his Pharaoh hound, said: “There is always sickness. “Everybody is super conscious about their health now,” he said.
“It’s all about feeling until you get sick,” he said. “Then when you get sick, you have to deal with it.”
According to city data, the number of Covid cases has increased by about 31% since Thanksgiving and is now at about 3,600 per day. However, the actual total number of infections is much higher because that number does not include home testing, which is now common. Meanwhile, flu case has spiked over the past two weeks and is at a higher level than at any point since 2018. One good news: RSV appears to have peak in mid-November and is on the decline, although its levels are still high.
Although city officials have recommended that New Yorkers wear masks in indoor public places, few have heeded that call. School attendance remains relatively high, although it has declined a bit recently. Restaurants, cafes are busy, offices show no signs of closing. People still go to the movies, music venues and cocktail bars.
Still, parents worry, especially toddlers at the start of or during a pandemic, as lockdowns protect them from germs and can leave them vulnerable. than before the current virus wave.
Mr. Merriam’s two daughters, 10 and 13, have both the coronavirus and the flu. He was never really worried about strep throat, but now there’s news – following deaths in the UK where nearly 20 children have died from Strep A, a bacterial infection. bacteria that cause strep throat – he was paying more attention.
Matthew Harris, a Northwell Health physician specializing in pediatric emergencies at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens, said the flu and RSV showed up earlier than expected in the fall, in numbers and severity. higher weight. He said RSV has historically started to peak in mid-to-late November and remained until spring, but this year, the virus came a month earlier.
RSV was the main viral cause of Cohen’s hospitalization, followed by the flu, while Covid was not a significant cause, he said. He said that in the past seven days, the hospital received about 260 children on average every day in the emergency department and was operating at a capacity of 105 to 120%.
He added that many children are infected with more than one virus at the same time, such as a combination of the flu and the coronavirus.
“Perhaps some of this has to do with the fact that children are currently exposed to the virus without any immune exposure in the past two years as a result of wearing masks and social distancing, etc”. “The nature of these viral diseases has changed as mitigation strategies have been implemented.”
At Cohen, employees were “overwhelmed,” he said, given the surge in emergency visits and hospitalizations and had to deal with a shortage of pediatricians, a nationwide trend.
“The rate of children requiring ICU admission is not significantly higher than in the past,” he added, “but the total number of children present is far beyond anything I have ever seen. I can tell you that if you look back at our children’s hospital’s last 10 years, the seven busiest days were last month.”
Judith Cabanas, 28, a mother of two living in Astoria, Queens, said she was worried because her 5-year-old son Benjamin had been sick for months.
“Every week or two, he gets sick, fever, cough, runny nose,” she said. “I’m scared.”
Ms. Cabanas had to keep Benjamin home from school and said she had to find Tylenol for children on Facebook, because stores were sold out. Although she is relieved that her 2-year-old daughter, Lily, seems to be healthy so far, she thinks the season will get worse.
“I just want winter to pass,” she said.
Sharon the Otter and Troy Closson contribution report.