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As COVID-19 cases decrease, other viruses are gaining momentum ahead of spring

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(WXYZ) — Despite the arrival of spring on Tuesday, some winter respiratory viruses are still holding strong.

Data from wastewater monitoring offers insights into which pathogens are declining and which ones are gaining momentum.

It’s a national program called WastewaterSCAN. Researchers can track 11 infectious diseases by testing wastewater for genetic material from viruses in people's waste.

Now, recent data shows that concentrations of COVID-19 are declining and the numbers across the U.S. range from low to medium, so that’s the good news.

But while COVID-19 is declining, other viruses are stepping up. Data shows the stomach bug norovirus is surging, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. The virus is the primary cause of foodborne illnesses, accounting for 58% of cases each year.

Also, parainfluenza viruses have peaked a couple of times, most recently in February. The numbers have not yet declined and WastewaterSCAN data found parainfluenza in 55% of samples, including the Midwest.

Another pathogen on the rise is rotavirus. Initially detected at low levels in September, WastewaterSCAN data now reveals a significant increase in its prevalence, reaching high levels.

And, of course, the flu is still high in pockets of the U.S., especially here in Michigan. While influenza A subsided, influenza B has spread. WastewaterSCAN data shows flu strain B is now detected in 96% of samples.

Parainfluenza commonly causes upper and lower respiratory illnesses, mostly in babies, young children and older adults, but anyone can get infected. Symptoms include runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat and fever. Most people recover, but some can develop a serious illness like croup, bronchitis and pneumonia. As for a vaccine, there is none.

Norovirus causes very unpleasant symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. It sends over 100,000 people to the hospital and causes 900 deaths each year. It tends to hit older folks the worst, but kids aren't spared either, with almost a million trips to the doctor’s office annually. There is also no vaccine for norovirus.

As for rotavirus, it can also cause diarrhea and vomiting but mostly in babies and young children. And this can lead to dehydration. The Centers for Diseasen Control and Prevention says it’s responsible for over 200,000 emergency room visits and up to 70,000 hospitalizations for kids aged 5 and under. As for vaccines, there are two rotavirus vaccines available for infants, which provide 70% protection and 90% from developing severe disease.

Now, most people are familiar with the flu and COVID-19 and both of those have vaccines available. Since it appears that some of these viruses are going to stick around for a while longer, try to stay healthy. Wash hands thoroughly, safely handle and prepare food and clean commonly used surfaces like doorknobs and taps. And don’t forget to stay up to date on your vaccines.