A ‘silver lining’ to social distancing: The possible impact on other diseases


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(NBC News) — According to NBC News’ Medical Correspondent Dr. John Torres, there appears to be a ‘silver lining’ to global social distancing measures.

He surmises these new habits could be driving down diseases.

“Around the world, people have had to adapt to life with different public health restrictions in place,” he said. “Now we are starting to see that these measures, including social distancing, are also helping against the flu and other infectious diseases.”

Torres points to Australia as an example of the disease-lowering impact.

“Australia is now in its winter months when flu is most rampant,” he explained. “But early figures show influenza rates are at a record low. Hospitals are usually overwhelmed with cases, but are seeing less admissions for this time of year.”

He goes on to say there is more evidence coming from other countries.

“Canada and the UK are also reporting exceptionally low levels of influenza,” he pointed out. “In China, where lockdown measures were first widely enforced, mumps and measles have also declined.”

He says there is a simple explanation for these new statistics.

“Like coronavirus, flu, measles and mumps are mainly transmitted in respiratory droplets and airborne particles,” he stated. “So it makes sense the widespread use of masking, hand washing, and social distancing are working against other respiratory viruses as well.”

Looking toward the future, Torres recommends keeping these measures in place.

 “Now this could also mean that if we continue to be vigilant and use these measures, we could have a mild flu season in the U.S. this year,” he imparted. “Combined with an influenza vaccine, you are giving yourself the best chance at staying healthy and safe.”

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