Spot the difference: Viruses making a comeback post-pandemic, but is it COVID-19?

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Charlotte Bidwell was born just before coronavirus shut everything down. 

Charlotte Bidwell is learning about a whole new world post-pandemic. (Courtesy: Madeline Bidwell)
Charlotte Bidwell is learning about a whole new world post-pandemic. (Courtesy: Madeline Bidwell)

Her parents explained they quarantined for months to keep her safe.

After getting their COVID-19 vaccines, they said they started doing a little more outside their home.

“We just didn’t take her to do a whole lot,” said Brett Bidwell “So it was a lot of at home, and we’re glad to get her out and about and, you know, playing in the park.”

In May, the Bidwells explained the 18-month-old wasn’t her playful self. 

“We started to notice that she was kind of drooling and not really wanting to eat very well. And complaining when she was eating,” said Brett. “And then we started to notice a few spots on her hands and feet and around her mouth.” 

Over Memorial Day weekend, they took her to an urgent care in Austin. They said Charlotte was diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth disease. 

Is it COVID-19 or something else? 

“She had a fever for one afternoon,” explained Madeline Bidwell. “We also had a trip planned the next week, so we wanted to make sure, you know, it’s not COVID. And can we take her on a trip with our family? So just wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing.”

Pediatrician Dr. Lisa Gaw with Texas Children’s Urgent Care said they’ve been treating more children with common illnesses including hand, foot and mouth disease, croup, strep throat and the common cold, which had nearly disappeared during the pandemic. 

Dr. Lisa Gaw is a pediatrician in Austin and said she's treating more common illnesses including colds, croup and strep throat. (Courtesy: Texas Children's Urgent Care)
Dr. Lisa Gaw is a pediatrician in Austin and said she’s treating more common illnesses including colds, croup and strep throat. (Courtesy: Texas Children’s Urgent Care)

She explained some symptoms can be similar to COVID-19, so it’s important for parents to touch base with their pediatricians to make sure it’s not coronavirus, especially when it includes a fever or if the child has trouble breathing. 

“A lot of these viruses… are spread by respiratory droplets from like sneezing or coughing and direct contact,” explained Dr. Gaw. “All the measures that we took to prevent COVID 19…  masking, social distancing, hand washing, but even things like better ventilation or wiping down high-touch surfaces, staying home when you’re sick — all these things help prevent the spread of COVID-19. But it also helped mitigate all these other common viruses.”

Across Texas Children’s hospitals and urgent care clinics in May 2020, about 1 in every 15 respiratory samples tested positive for the common cold, according to the Department of Pathology. A year later comparing the numbers to this May, it’s 5 out of every 15 samples. 

RSV cases spike across the nation

Dr. Gaw explained she hasn’t treated many flu cases but has started to see some cases of RSV, respiratory syncytial virus. It’s the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children younger than one.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory earlier this month warning of a spike in cases in more than a dozen states including Texas. 

The warning explained RSV infections typically occur during the fall/winter cold and flu season. According to the CDC, in April 2020, cases were down due to public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but since late March there has been an increase in cases.

“Due to reduced circulation of RSV during the winter months of 2020–2021, older infants and toddlers might now be at increased risk of severe RSV-associated illness since they have likely not had typical levels of exposure to RSV during the past 15 months,” said the advisory.

Dr. Gaw pointed out this is a good time to make sure all vaccines are also updated, especially if well-child visits were missed during the pandemic or done virtually. 

Kids recommended to mask up

She also recommends young children continue to wear masks during certain circumstances. 

Charlotte Bidwell was born right before COVID-19 hit Texas. (Courtesy Madeline Bidwell)
Charlotte Bidwell was born right before COVID-19 hit Texas. (Courtesy Madeline Bidwell)

“If your child is not in the age group that can get their vaccine, right, the rest of the household may be vaccinated, the younger children may not be, and so they’re kind of at still a risk, depending on their exposures and activities that they do,” said Dr. Gaw. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends kids ages 2 and up not yet fully vaccinated continue to wear face masks to help prevent not just COVID-19 but also other viruses cropping up now.

“It’s not a bad idea to consider maybe masking even if you’re fully vaccinated you know, just to kind of set an example for your younger child, why it’s still important for them,” explained Dr. Gaw. 

The Bidwells have taken all necessary precautions and are excited for the post-pandemic world Charlotte is discovering. 

They said she ended up with a mild case of hand, foot and mouth disease and is back to herself. 

“We’re excited to get back out in the world and get Charlotte into the world and start doing stuff again,” said Madeline.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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