Is it Covid? The flu? RSV? New Yorkers are sick of being sick.

For almost a month now, Sean Merriam has been walking around town with a stuffy nose and a mysterious cough that keeps echoing in his lungs. He knows it’s not Covid, because he gets tested regularly, and it’s not the flu, which he recovered from a few weeks ago.

The culprit may be respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, which has increased this season, but it’s not certain. It could be anything, really.

“I go through periods where I think it’s gone, and then I cough, and I’m like, yeah, it’s still there,” Mr. Merriam, 55, a video editor who stopped by McCarren Park in Brooklyn on Thursday. “It just won’t go away.”

Their mysterious virus is among a maelstrom of illnesses that have assaulted New Yorkers this winter with baffling and miserable symptoms: a toxic cocktail made worse by cramped apartments, subway cars and classrooms, where masks are now optional.

Faced with such an unrelenting onslaught, New Yorkers seem to have mixed emotions, feeling apprehensive, tired and resigned to a new “new normal”. They live among not only the coronavirus and its seemingly endless variants, but also a host of other viruses. Infectious disease experts have noted that other respiratory diseases, such as rhinoviruses and adenoviruses, are also circulating.

“There’s always an illness,” said Lester Sykes, 35, who lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn and was walking Raja, his pharaoh dog. “Everyone is hyper-conscious about their health now,” he said.

“It’s all about the feeling until you get sick,” he said. “Then when you get sick, you have to deal with it.”

According to city data, the number of Covid cases has increased by about 31 percent since Thanksgiving and now stands at about 3,600 per day. However, the actual total caseload is much higher, because that number does not include home testing, which is now common. Meanwhile, flu cases have soared over the past two weeks and are at higher levels than at any time since 2018. The good news: RSV appears to have peaked in mid-November and is on the decline, although their levels also remain high.

Although city officials have recommended that New Yorkers wear masks in indoor public spaces, few are heeding the call. School attendance also remains relatively high, although it has fallen somewhat recently. Restaurants and cafes are busy and offices show no signs of closing. People still go out to the cinema, to music venues and to cocktail bars.

Still, parents are worried, especially those of young children born at the start or during the pandemic, when confinement protected them from germs and may have made them more vulnerable to the current crop of viruses.

Mr. Merriam’s two daughters, ages 10 and 13, have had both the coronavirus and the flu. He never worried about strep, but now that it’s in the news – after fatal cases in Britain where nearly 20 children have died from Strep A, a bacterial infection that causes strep – he’s paying more attention.

Matthew Harris, a Northwell Health physician who specializes in pediatric emergency medicine at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens, said flu and RSV appeared earlier than expected in the fall and with greater volume and severity elevated Historically, RSV begins to peak in mid-to-late November and stays until spring, he said, but this year, the virus arrived a month earlier.

RSV was the predominant viral cause of admission to Cohen followed by the flu, he said, while Covid was not a major contributor. In the past seven days, he said, the hospital has averaged about 260 children in the emergency department daily and is operating at 105 to 120 percent capacity.

He added that many children came down with multiple viruses at the same time, for example, a combination of the flu and the coronavirus.

“Part of this probably has to do with the fact that children are now being exposed to viruses that they had no immunological exposure to in the last couple of years because of masking and social distancing and so on,” he said. say Dr. Harris said. “The very nature of these viral diseases has changed because of the mitigation strategies that were adopted.”

At Cohen, staff members are “overwhelmed,” he said, by increased emergency room visits and admissions and must deal with a shortage of pediatricians, a national trend.

“The percentage of children requiring admission to the ICU is not substantially higher than it has been in the past,” he added, “but the total number of children presenting is far beyond what I have ever seen.” I can tell you that if you look back over the last 10 years at our children’s hospital, the seven busiest days have been in the last month.”

Judith Cabanas, 28, a mother of two who lives in Astoria, Queens, said she is anxious because her 5-year-old son, Benjamin, has been sick repeatedly for months.

“Every week or two he’s been getting sick, fever, cough, runny nose,” she said. “It scares me.”

Ms. Cabanas has had to keep Benjamin home from school and said she has to look up Children’s Tylenol on Facebook because the stores are out of stock. While she’s relieved that her 2-year-old daughter, Lily, appears to be healthy so far, she expects the season to get worse.

“I just want winter to be over,” she said.

Sharon Otterman i Troy Closson provide reports

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