“Although flu season began early, there is limited evidence that it is worse than typical years”

Vijay Prasad:

 Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, says: “It feels like it’s bad because hospitals are so understaffed, but this does not represent an outlier season.”

RSV, which is a standard childhood illness, also surged early, and it generally hits very young children and the elderly hardest. There are ongoing shortages both in terms of medicine, like Tylenol, and pediatric hospital beds. But the latter is less about the rising cases and more about the disappearance of pediatric services. Caring for children is not a major moneymaker for hospitals, and often earns less than adult hospitalization. Over the past two decades, as the Washington Post explained, there has been a major decline in pediatric beds nationally. The bottom line: we should be less afraid of RSV and more concerned about our broken ability to handle routine viral illness year to year.

Second, there is no avoiding respiratory viruses. With extreme, draconian measures, exposure to respiratory viruses can be delayed, but can never be averted. This is in contrast with, say,  our ability to avoid contaminated drinking water or sexually transmitted diseases. The difference is that human beings have to breathe every minute of every day. And, as humans are social creatures, most of that breathing will naturally be very close to other human beings.

“The piper must be paid at some point in nature; kids will get sick, and it has nothing to do with a more compromised immune system,” says Dr. Danuta Skowronski from the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control.

This point must be emphasized. It is natural, healthy, and necessary for young children to be exposed to many viruses. In order for children to build immunity to common pathogens—in order for them to develop a normally functioning immune system—they must have such exposure, which will sometimes make them sick.

And third, there is no evidence that the interventions purported to stop Covid-19, flu, and RSV will help. Before Covid-19, the evidence to support masking was thin. I co-authored a survey of masking trials that were done prior to the advent of Covid-19, examining whether masks stopped transmission of respiratory viruses. Fourteen of the 16 trials showed masks were ineffective at this. In other words, the pre-Covid evidence was clear that recommending masks for the average person was useless. This is likely one reason why Dr. Anthony Fauci, the CDC, the World Health Organization, and others initially advised against masking. 

Even worse, the evidence for masking young children for Covid-19, flu, and RSV viruses is entirely lacking.