COVID is making flu and other common viruses act in unfamiliar ways

More than two years into the coronavirus pandemic, familiar viruses are acting in unfamiliar ways. Respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, typically limits its suffocating assaults to the winter months.

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Rhinovirus, cause of the common cold, rarely sends people to the hospital.

And the flu, which seemed to be making a comeback in December after being a no-show the year before, disappeared again in January once the omicron variant of the coronavirus took hold. Now flu is back, but without one common lineage known as Yamagata, which hasn’t been spotted since early 2020. It could have gone extinct or may be lying in wait to attack our unsuspecting immune systems, researchers said.

The upheaval is being felt in hospitals and labs. Doctors are rethinking routines, including keeping preventive shots on hand into the spring and even summer. Researchers have a rare opportunity to figure out whether behavioral changes like stay-at-home orders, masking and social distancing are responsible for the viral shifts, and what evolutionary advantage SARS CoV-2 may be exercising over its microscopic rivals.

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