As people ditch masks, could respiratory illness make a comeback?


PEORIA, Ill. — Local doctors speculated airborne respiratory illnesses could make a comeback as people are ditching masks.

The Centers for Disease Control reported that cases of the flu dropped in 2020 compared to previous flu seasons.

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Pediatric deaths also fell to an almost insignificant amount last flu season.

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Chief Clinical Officer at OSF HealthCare, Dr. Steve Hippler, credited COVID-19 precautions.

“I think we learned with the pandemic that the handwashing, social distancing, and masks, that it not only reduced the instances of COVID but all the respiratory illnesses,” he said.

Hippler said it is possible there could be an uptick in respiratory illnesses and influenza.

“As we start to get back to normal, and if people aren’t following those same public health precautions, I would expect we’re gonna go back to seeing the normal amount of these respiratory illnesses,” he said.

Dr. David Tennant with UnityPoint Health said it is too soon to predict the 2021 flu season.

“The theory goes, since you’ve been exposed to the flu, you, therefore, have some built-up immunity. That probably didn’t happen this last year. At least not nearly to the same extent as it has in years past,” he said.

Both Tennant and Hippler said it will be interesting to see the outcome of unmasking and 2021’s flu season.

“It’s kind of this mass experiment for lack of a better term that ended up happening. We’ll see what happens,” Tennant said.

Both doctors urged people to not only get their COVID-19 vaccine but also their flu shot.

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