Masks and other mitigation efforts have kept other seasonal illnesses low.By John Shumway

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – While the toll of the coronavirus has been devastating there has been an ironic upside to the pandemic – it’s the illnesses we are not seeing.

COVID-19 mitigation efforts are helping people not get other illnesses says AHN Pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Preiss.

“We are not seeing any influenza in the office or even having people call in about influenza,” she said. “I can’t even remember the last time I saw an ear infection in a kid, I might have seen one in an adult, like remotely over the summer but I’ve not seen any ear infections, we’re not having typical colds that have turned into sinus infections.”

Dr. Preiss says it doesn’t stop there.

“We haven’t seen the amount of asthma exacerbations that we used to see because I think by wearing masks and having school, a fair amount remotely, kids are not being exposed to the typical parainfluenza, influenza, rhinoviruses, that causes those exacerbations of asthma or cause colds, or will prolong and stick around and then in turn into sinusitis or something,” she explained. “Strep throat, don’t even remember the last time. We are just not seeing that. In addition, I’m not seeing viral gastroenteritis which can actually be pretty nasty during the wintertime, that’s stomach flu, just not seeing that at all.”

As more schools work to get their students back in the classroom Dr. Preiss does not worry about those illnesses reemerging.

“I think most of the schools are going to be masking and I think masking plays a huge role in protection from any kind of virus or germs that are spread from the nose and mouth,” she said.

That’s not to say she advocates the continued use of mask beyond the pandemic.

WATCH: Masks Helping With Illness, Hurting Social Interaction

“I think that for socialization and learning social cues, looking at people’s faces reading people, it’s really important that we get masks off,” Dr. Preiss said.”I do think that there’s going to be a problem next fall and winter if we are able to de-mask. I think there’s gonna be a lot more common illness next fall and winter because we don’t have the immunity that we typically get with all the exposures and we’ve basically not been exposed since March of 2020.”

Dr. Preiss is also concerned that the COVID separation, while a physical illness preventative, has a downside.

“I think mental illness and anxiety, social, feeling socially isolated depression are really, really real right now and I think we’re gonna see more of that we’re seeing it in younger children we’re seeing in families,” she said. “It’s very problematic and I think it’s going to have some effects in the aftermath as we’d mask and become more socially interactive again, It’s not going away.”