Pediatrician Dr. Eve Meltzer Krief examines Lila, 5, for a sore...

Pediatrician Dr. Eve Meltzer Krief examines Lila, 5, for a sore throat outside her office at Huntington Village Pediatrics. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Early June has seen a "burst of COVID" along with a variety pack of colds, viruses and other seasonal ailments that are on the rise, according to Long Island medical professionals.

While some of the viruses tend to be more prevalent as summer approaches, possible factors driving the uptick in COVID-19 cases include the circulation of new variants as well as more people gathering and traveling during warmer weather, experts say. 

Positive tests for rhinoviruses and enteroviruses, which can cause anything from a common cold to serious respiratory illness, have been steadily going up since March nationwide, according to national data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 26% of tests were positive at the end of May compared with about 15% in March.

Enteroviruses are especially common in the summer. “We are definitely seeing our fair share of colds and fever viruses,” said. Dr. Eve Meltzer-Krief, who has a pediatric practice in Huntington.

Positive COVID-19 tests, which don't include results from home tests, have ticked up slightly nationwide after being steady since March, according to the CDC chart.

Many of the illnesses share symptoms, such as coughing and muscle aches, which make it difficult for people to figure out what is making them sick. While it's important to identify COVID and flu, which have particular treatments, in most cases it's more important to monitor and manage symptoms.

“We don't really differentiate between all the summer viral infections,” said Erin Hunt, Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care’s lead physician assistant. “We care most about the ones that have a different treatment like COVID and flu.”

Although far from the waves of the winter, cases of COVID-19 are still popping up all around Long Island, experts said. The new variants KP.2 and KP.3 appear to be driving recent infections. 

“We are seeing a burst of COVID,” Hunt said of the GoHealth urgent care centers on Long Island. “I think it’s related to the new variant that’s circulating, plus an increase in travel. People are traveling all over.”

As of Tuesday, there were 99 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Long Island and 539 across the state, the highest since April, according to the state Health Department.

National early indicators, which represent a portion of COVID-19 tests and emergency department visits, are up .08% and 5.1%, respectively, as of May 25, according to the CDC. 

Meltzer-Krief said most of the COVID-19 cases she is seeing are in babies and young children, and she has noticed a spike in recent weeks.

Hunt said it’s important to test a person with symptoms such as cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and fatigue for COVID-19.

“Especially if you are feeling really run down, we want to make sure we're not dealing with COVID as opposed to just your standard upper respiratory infection,” Hunt said.

Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, said if the current variant becomes much more highly infectious and people’s antibody levels aren't strong enough to fight it, there could be a shift that signals more cases.

Many people suffering with stuffy noses, cough and sore throats could just have seasonal allergies. But sometimes it’s more than that. Health practitioners said there are a few ways to tell the difference.

“Generally with allergies, you’re going to have watery eyes, itchy eyes, runny nose, maybe itching in your throat,” Hunt said. “With a viral infection, if you do have discharge from your eyes or your nose, it's going to be a little bit thicker. You’re not going to have the itching." With allergies, however, "You might notice your symptoms are worse on days with a high pollen count.”

Another telltale sign that you might have COVID-19 and not an allergy is shortness of breath, said Dr. Robert Schreiber, a retired pulmonary care physician and former director of the pulmonary division at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn.

“Shortness of breath from allergies would be uncommon unless you already have asthma,” he said. “Air pollution can also exacerbate respiratory disease.”

Common colds, generally caused by a rhinovirus, tend to have more mild symptoms than those of COVID-19.

“Fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea … those are not typical of colds,” Schreiber said. “Those are not typical of allergies.”

Nachman said May and June are prime times for mononucleosis, a contagious disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.

“Everybody is going to parties and sharing drinks and the stuff you didn't do in December,” she said. “Every high school kid is going to a party, going to a prom, and it incubates for a month. … We are going to see mono, and tons of it.”

With the exception of COVID-19 and influenza, which can be treated with specific antiviral medicines, viral illnesses need to run their course.

People can treat the symptoms like fever and aches with pain relievers and stay hydrated. Antibiotics will not work, even though some people ask their doctors for them anyway.

People who overuse and misuse antibiotics may be adding to the number of drug-resistant germs.

“This type of season contributes to our overuse of antibiotics significantly because you're getting sick and you want to get places and do things,” she said. “People think if they get an antibiotic they will get better faster. … They won’t, and this will contribute to antibiotic overuse in our environment. And that's a very worrisome thing for us.”

Early June has seen a "burst of COVID" along with a variety pack of colds, viruses and other seasonal ailments that are on the rise, according to Long Island medical professionals.

While some of the viruses tend to be more prevalent as summer approaches, possible factors driving the uptick in COVID-19 cases include the circulation of new variants as well as more people gathering and traveling during warmer weather, experts say. 

Positive tests for rhinoviruses and enteroviruses, which can cause anything from a common cold to serious respiratory illness, have been steadily going up since March nationwide, according to national data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 26% of tests were positive at the end of May compared with about 15% in March.

Enteroviruses are especially common in the summer. “We are definitely seeing our fair share of colds and fever viruses,” said. Dr. Eve Meltzer-Krief, who has a pediatric practice in Huntington.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Long Island health providers say they have seen a recent increase in COVID-19 cases as well as summer colds and viruses.
  • Symptoms of seasonal allergies, influenza and COVID-19 are similar to those of common viruses, so consult your doctor to see if you need to be tested.
  • Antibiotics will not help a viral illness and overuse can lead to resistance, making the medications less helpful when really needed, doctors said.

Positive COVID-19 tests, which don't include results from home tests, have ticked up slightly nationwide after being steady since March, according to the CDC chart.

Many of the illnesses share symptoms, such as coughing and muscle aches, which make it difficult for people to figure out what is making them sick. While it's important to identify COVID and flu, which have particular treatments, in most cases it's more important to monitor and manage symptoms.

“We don't really differentiate between all the summer viral infections,” said Erin Hunt, Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care’s lead physician assistant. “We care most about the ones that have a different treatment like COVID and flu.”

A 'burst' of COVID cases

Although far from the waves of the winter, cases of COVID-19 are still popping up all around Long Island, experts said. The new variants KP.2 and KP.3 appear to be driving recent infections. 

“We are seeing a burst of COVID,” Hunt said of the GoHealth urgent care centers on Long Island. “I think it’s related to the new variant that’s circulating, plus an increase in travel. People are traveling all over.”

As of Tuesday, there were 99 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Long Island and 539 across the state, the highest since April, according to the state Health Department.

National early indicators, which represent a portion of COVID-19 tests and emergency department visits, are up .08% and 5.1%, respectively, as of May 25, according to the CDC. 

Meltzer-Krief said most of the COVID-19 cases she is seeing are in babies and young children, and she has noticed a spike in recent weeks.

Hunt said it’s important to test a person with symptoms such as cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and fatigue for COVID-19.

“Especially if you are feeling really run down, we want to make sure we're not dealing with COVID as opposed to just your standard upper respiratory infection,” Hunt said.

Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, said if the current variant becomes much more highly infectious and people’s antibody levels aren't strong enough to fight it, there could be a shift that signals more cases.

Allergies or virus?

Many people suffering with stuffy noses, cough and sore throats could just have seasonal allergies. But sometimes it’s more than that. Health practitioners said there are a few ways to tell the difference.

“Generally with allergies, you’re going to have watery eyes, itchy eyes, runny nose, maybe itching in your throat,” Hunt said. “With a viral infection, if you do have discharge from your eyes or your nose, it's going to be a little bit thicker. You’re not going to have the itching." With allergies, however, "You might notice your symptoms are worse on days with a high pollen count.”

Another telltale sign that you might have COVID-19 and not an allergy is shortness of breath, said Dr. Robert Schreiber, a retired pulmonary care physician and former director of the pulmonary division at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn.

“Shortness of breath from allergies would be uncommon unless you already have asthma,” he said. “Air pollution can also exacerbate respiratory disease.”

Common colds, generally caused by a rhinovirus, tend to have more mild symptoms than those of COVID-19.

“Fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea … those are not typical of colds,” Schreiber said. “Those are not typical of allergies.”

Seasonal trends for some viruses

Nachman said May and June are prime times for mononucleosis, a contagious disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.

“Everybody is going to parties and sharing drinks and the stuff you didn't do in December,” she said. “Every high school kid is going to a party, going to a prom, and it incubates for a month. … We are going to see mono, and tons of it.”

With the exception of COVID-19 and influenza, which can be treated with specific antiviral medicines, viral illnesses need to run their course.

People can treat the symptoms like fever and aches with pain relievers and stay hydrated. Antibiotics will not work, even though some people ask their doctors for them anyway.

People who overuse and misuse antibiotics may be adding to the number of drug-resistant germs.

“This type of season contributes to our overuse of antibiotics significantly because you're getting sick and you want to get places and do things,” she said. “People think if they get an antibiotic they will get better faster. … They won’t, and this will contribute to antibiotic overuse in our environment. And that's a very worrisome thing for us.”

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