The reemergence of seasonal respiratory viruses in Houston, Texas, after Relaxing COVID-19 restrictions

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37 Scopus citations


Measures intended to limit the spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus at the start of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic resulted in a rapid decrease in other respiratory pathogens. Herein, we describe the trends of respiratory pathogens in a major metropolitan health care system central microbiology reference laboratory before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, with attention to when COVID-19 mitigation measures were implemented and relaxed. During the initial lockdown period, COVID-19 was the primary respiratory pathogen detected by multiplex respiratory panels. As COVID-19 containment measures were relaxed, the first non-COVID respiratory viruses to return to prepandemic levels were members of the rhinovirus/enterovirus family. After the complete removal of COVID-19 precautions at the state level, including an end to mask mandates, we observed the robust return of seasonal coronaviruses, parainfluenza virus, and respiratory syncytial virus. Inasmuch as COVID-19 has dominated the landscape of respiratory infections since early 2020, it is important for clinicians to recognize that the return of non-COVID respiratory pathogens may be rapid and significant when COVID-19 containment measures are removed. IMPORTANCE We describe the return of non-COVID respiratory viruses after the removal of COVID-19 mitigation measures. It is important for the public and physicians to recognize that, after months of COVID-19 being the primary driver of respiratory infection, more typical seasonal respiratory illnesses have returned, and this return is out of the normal season for some of these pathogens. Thus, clinicians and the public must now consider both COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses when a patient presents with symptomatic respiratory illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00430-21
JournalMicrobiology Spectrum
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus
  • Influenza
  • Masking
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Respiratory syncytial virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Ecology
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology
  • Infectious Diseases


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