The corona crisis might be over, but all over Israel adults and children are getting sick with viral infections in a phenomenon that is unprecedented for this time of the year, according to several medical professionals.
“We have never seen anything like this,” said Dr. Tal Brosh, head of Infectious Disease Unit at the Samson Assuta Ashdod Hospital. “We’ve been monitoring viral infections in the hospital, which of course is just the tip of the iceberg of what is going on in the community, as for each hospitalized patient, there are many more out there. Since the spring, we have been seeing an increasing number of respiratory diseases, and since May there has been a surge in RSV cases.”
RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, usually appears in the winter together with the influenza, and is especially serious for very young children and older, vulnerable adults.
“We usually see it disappearing in the summer, but if we consider the numbers now, it looks like winter in previous years,” said Brosh. “During the winter 2020-2021, we did not see one individual case of RSV.”
RSV is not the only virus that is widely circulating – other diseases that are currently infecting a growing number of people are a type of adenovirus, the human metapneumovirus (HMPV), and the rhinovirus. All of them are associated with respiratory symptoms and other symptoms similar to those of a severe cold. At the same time, influenza has not hit the country since the winter previous to the pandemic.
“However, we are not checking the type of virus in all cases,” said Dr. Tal Snir, director of the Adolescent Clinic at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center (Dana-Dwek Children’s Hospital).
Snir noted that after the year of the pandemic, it is not surprising that these diseases are reappearing.
“We did not see them during the winter because we were wearing masks and because of the lockdowns, but they are normal viruses,” she said.
While no formal study appears to have been published on the topic, Brosh said that a similar phenomenon was reported in Australia a few months ago, when the country hit its summer after the first winter plagued by corona.
The number of children hospitalized with respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases has been exceptional also at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, said Dr. Giora Weiser, director of the Department of Pediatric Emergency Medicine.
“Children are going back to school, seeing friends and having a normal life again, and these viruses are taking their revenge,” said Weiser.
While there is no particular reason to be concerned, Weiser said that it has not been easy for the staff because of the work overload.
All experts agreed that nobody can predict how this surge of infections will continue to behave in the coming weeks and months.
“This is not a pandemic, these viruses exist in the country and every winter comes with illnesses,” Brosh said. “What is weird now is the season, and we do not know whether this will die soon or continue into next winter, and what will actually happen next winter.”