Does it seem like everyone you know has been struggling with a respiratory illness in recent months? The medical community has confirmed that there has been an unusual volume of cases far earlier in the season than normal. I asked preventive medicine specialist William ­Schaffner, MD, what’s going on…

The major-league players now are COVID, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)…the minor league—adenovirus, rhinovirus and parainfluenza. While epidemiologists speculate that two years of social distancing might have weakened our immune systems because we haven’t been exposed to these viruses, there’s not much data to support that. But a related phenomenon probably is at play. Prepandemic, most people got their first RSV infections as infants. But with so many families isolating, that first infection was delayed for many children. Now that kids are again socializing, RSV has a pent-up pool of “susceptibles” to infect. More young children with RSV means more adults are reinfected.

While a healthy lifestyle is the best way to boost immunity, you can do even more to stay well…

Consider getting the influenza and COVID vaccines to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Go back to wearing a mask at indoor events.

If you feel ill, stay home.

If you do get sick, get tested for COVID, influenza and RSV. There are treatments for COVID and flu, and identifying RSV will help the medical community get its arms around the virus.

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