Viruses and other bugs could make a summer comeback

Covid threw the infectious diseases playbook out the window this past winter.

Instead of the typical flu season, the U.S. endured a record mix of invasive strep infections, flu, RSV, enteroviruses and other respiratory illnesses that competed with Covid to make most Americans sick at some point.

It might not be over yet.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a spring spike of human metapneumovirus. HMPV is a respiratory virus that’s related to RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and is usually spread through coughing, sneezing or touching surfaces that contain infected respiratory droplets.

“We’ve seen a ton of HMPV,” said Dr. Buddy Creech, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Most cases are mild, Creech said, involving wheezing and “lots of snot.”

Despite the uptick, the CDC said it seems unlikely that HMPV will surge this summer.

“HMPV activity right now is not remarkable,” an agency spokesman said in an email, adding that the risk for HMPV spread is low.

If Covid has turned typical seasonal illnesses upside down, what’s ahead for summer?

“You can never really predict the future, but I would hope that we’ll have a boring summer,” said Dr. Anthony K. Leung, an infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.

It’s been several years of unseasonal spikes of childhood illnesses such as croup, strep A and RSV, a winter virus that surged during the summers of 2021 and 2022.

While the U.S. seems to have stabilized for the moment, summer travel is just getting started. Slight upticks in other viruses have put infectious diseases experts on alert as we head into the summer of 2023.