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Non-COVID viruses infecting kids, parents

Even as COVID-19 trends improve, other respiratory illnesses are on the rise. In the midst of a late flu season, doctors say children are becoming infected.

LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — While doctors hope the Coronavirus pandemic is winding down, non-COVID respiratory viruses such as the flu and rhinovirus have been making a comeback.

Dr. Jennifer Janco, chair of pediatrics at St. Luke's, said many of those cases are happening in children.

"I think most parents and their children are going to be living their lives," Janco said. "People are going to be going to their jobs or places of worship or their schools or their sporting activities, and so there's going to be opportunities for these viruses to circulate."

"We changed. The host changed," said Dr. Pragya Dhaubhadel, infectious disease specialist at Geisinger. "That's why the virus got the opportunity to attack us, infect us, and cause a different trend."

Dhaubhadel said the measures used to limit the spread of COVID-19 kept common seasonal illnesses away, too.

"There was like very low exposure of any kind of viruses to these children, and they did not have much immunity compared to those children who were there before the pandemic," Dhaubhadel said. "Our society is opening up, the general public is opening up, and now the viruses have new hosts to multiply and spread."

Unlike in previous years, this flu season has extended into the summer.

"At this time, the influenza was usually gone in the last five seasons, but here we are seeing the trend slowly coming down," Dhaubhadel said.

"Influenza, there are some things we can do for some children to prevent it through vaccination. Something like rhinovirus or some of the other illnesses that we're seeing, yes, children are going to get sick with that," Janco said. "You prevent what you can, and you treat what you can't."

Doctors said many people, including parents, have become more mindful of their health during the pandemic.

"I think a lot of us came to work when we were sick, and we sent our kids places when we were sick," Janco said. "I think if maybe parents could pause for a second now and sort of ask and wonder, 'if my child is sick, maybe I shouldn't be sending them to school."

Dr. Janco said the basics still work. Washing hands and covering coughs can help prevent the spread of any illness, COVID-19 or not.

RELATED: How to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine, booster appointment in Pennsylvania

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