Infectious Disease

COVID-19 restrictions have been linked to decrease respiratory virus charges in the neighborhood

February 04, 2021

2 min read

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Shelter-in-place orders at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US appear to be linked to a significantly lower rate of more common respiratory viruses in the community, including influenza and rhinovirus.

“The end of the 2019-2020 respiratory season provided a unique opportunity to examine the outcome of public health interventions in response to SARS-CoV-2 on the epidemiological characteristics of other circulating respiratory viruses,” said Elizabeth Partridge, MD, medical specialist for Pediatrics in The Department of Infectious Diseases and Assistant Professor at the UC Davis School of Medicine in Sacramento, Calif. and colleagues wrote on JAMA Network Open. “Public health initiatives that involve ordering on-site accommodation are expensive and unpopular. Evidence of their success is important to justify their systemic or individual costs. “

Researchers conducted a cohort study to assess the positivity rates of more common respiratory viruses in the community served by UC Davis Health from August 2014 to July 2020. Partridge and colleagues examined 46,128 test results for respiratory viral pathogens during the 6-year period conducted at UC Davis Health.

The researchers then assessed the test results before and after the nationwide stay-at-home order began in March 2020.

During the post-exposure period from March to July 2020, there were 168 positive test results for viral respiratory pathogens with a positivity rate of 9.88 positive results per 100 tests, which was lower than the positivity rate of 29.9 positive results per 100 tests during the previous five seasons with respiratory viruses. The positivity rates were similar for the pre-exposure August to March 2020 and for the seasons of the respiratory virus over the past 5 years (30.4 versus 33.68 positive results per 100 tests).

Researchers observed a significant decrease in viral airway activity in the time after exposure, with a 93% decrease in influenza cases (incidence rate) [IRR] = 0.07; 95% CI, 0.02-0.33; P = 0.001) and an 81% decrease in rhinovirus or enterovirus cases (IRR = 0.19; 95% CI, 0.09-0.39; P <0.001). The researchers also reported lower rates of respiratory syncytial virus (67% reduction; IRR = 0.33; 95% CI, 0.1-1.1; P = 0.07), parainfluenza virus (91% reduction; IRR = 0 , 9; 95% CI, 0.01-) 1.25; P = 0.07), coronavirus (IRR = 0.37; 95% CI, 0.06-2.52; P = 0.3) and adenovirus (IRR = 0.23; 95% CI, 0.04- 1.23; P = 0.08) during post-exposure viral activity period.

“The restrictions on travel, mandatory mask wear, and physical distancing enshrined in the California Housing Order have been controversial because of their significant social and economic costs,” the researchers wrote. “However, this cohort study shows that public health strategies have been linked to lower respiratory virus rates in the community served by UC Davis Health.”

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