There was a presumed silver lining to this pandemic… that the masks and social distancing and just plain staying away from each other would lead to the number of seasonal colds and flus being less than usual. To be sure, those illnesses are around… and if you didn’t catch a cold this year, you’ll probably get it eventually… but, for that to happen, it has to get near you, and, like C19, if it can’t get close to you, it can’t infect you.

Catching a cold or flu is easier than C19; these things are generally more infectious. They’re also, of course, far less lethal… and the conventional trade-off with life in general is that you expect to get sick once in a while, especially during winter when these viruses/bugs are around, and our immune systems are more susceptible.

As per the CDC… let’s pick the 3rd week of December, where in 2019, 30,000 samples were tested for Influenza A…. 16.2% came back positive. This year, ie 2020, ie a few weeks ago… that same sample set of 30,000 came back with a positivity rate of… 0.3%. A drop of two orders of magnitude. Hugely statistically significant.

Some of that can be attributed to the fact that flu-shots were way up this year… but if you’re a rabid anti-vaxxer, you’ll have to pick your poison here… because something worked, and it worked very well. Was it the flu vaccines? Was it the masks and social distancing?

Whatever the cause (a lot of both is the answer), that’s a huge drop, and similar huge drops are being seen across the board of illnesses, including the common childhood infections of not just flu, but also croup and bronchiolitis.

As per above, it’s not that these things are gone… it’s just that they’re just more difficult to catch these days. Once measures are relaxed, these things will come back and numbers will be way up… but hopefully some of the measures we’ve become accustomed to stick around. The whole “hug-hug kiss-kiss everyone” that’s so prevalent in some cultures; good riddance. Go ahead and hug and kiss strangers if you like, but let’s make it optional and not frown on others who choose to not partake. And if you’re asking yourself “WTF is he talking about”, I’m guessing you’re Canadian, American, British… from one of these “low-contact” cultures.

There are cultures where saying hello with three kisses (alternate cheeks, start on the right) is the norm. In parts of France, that number is actually four. Heck, there are cultures where kissing on the lips (a quick peck, no tongue!) is a normal greeting. Latin American culture has a wide variety of customs, and they vary significantly from place to place… but they all have one thing in common; if someone is already sick, everyone will be getting sick.

At the risk of being accused of cultural appropriation, going forward, might I suggest what ancient cultures have been practicing for centuries: “Namaste”, or a similar bow – it conveys respect, and it respects personal space. And it also keeps the bugs far away.

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