Health Report: The impact of COVID precautions on other diseases and overall health.

Published: Nov. 10, 2020 at 5:02 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -With people wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and staying home instead of going out, we take a look at what effect COVID precautions have had on the infection rates of other respiratory diseases.

According to Mindy Traybal, a Physician with Tanana Valley Clinic, “Our patient numbers for most contagious types of diseases are much lower -- colds, flus, things that would be transferred by air droplets, [and] particulates. I think that masking helps the overall community.”

With many people wearing masks and focusing on staying six feet apart in the effort to prevent the spread of COVID, other diseases such as the flu are impacted as well.

“Basically what I’ve been seeing has been reflected in the data that I’ve seen from the state. We don’t usually have a lot of flu this time of year, but if you compare our numbers this year to the numbers back from even the 2016-2017 season, we are way below average,” said Traybal.

But this discrepancy could still be attributed to a number of potential factors.

“The first thing that comes to my mind is that with so many people socially distancing and there’s heightened awareness of the chance of spread of virus, when people are trying to protect themselves from COVID they’re also protecting themselves from the flu,” said Traybal.

Another factor contributing to the decrease in illness overall is a cultural focus turned toward self-care caused by the pandemic. Traybal continued, “Overall I think this has increased an important awareness. We as humans in our society... we want to be busy, we have lots to do, we don’t want to take time to take care of ourselves. I think this [awareness] has helped our population as a whole. When we are normally pushing through a virus, a lot of people are forced to stay home and take care of themselves -- and I think we’re having less complications also from that.”

With the pandemic bringing viral infection to the forefront of much discourse and awareness, it could encourage healthier habits in the long run.

“It’s common sense but it’s hard to do in our society. It’s one of the most common thing we tell our patients -- you’ve got to go home, you got to rest, you got to drink lots of fluids. It sounds very simple but there’s a lot of wisdom in it," said Traybal.

According to Traybal, even in a world after COVID, the increased awareness and caution developed during the pandemic will prevent the spread of disease and lead to a healthier community.

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