By Sara Powers

(CBS DETROIT) – More than a year of masking and social distancing did more than just slow the spread of COVID-19. It stopped many common illnesses in their tracks.

“It’s not entirely surprising that we’re seeing a slight uptick in some of these other respiratory viruses because people are getting together, closer contact, more crowded situations,” said Dr. Russ Lampen, Spectrum Health Division Chief of Infectious Diseases.

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Dr. Russ Lampen says with people gathering and tossing away their masks, we’re seeing a resurgence during what is usually the end of flu season.

Up to this point, cold and flu season has been almost non-existent this year.

Epidemiologist Dr. Nigel Paneth says activity has been minimal throughout the United States

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 200 people in Michigan have died from the flu in each of the last four years, including more than 460 people in 2018.

So far this year, just 16 people in the state have died from the flu.

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Dr. Nigel Paneth says that is because the best ways the stop the spread of other respiratory viruses is similar to COVID-19.

“All of the respiratory viruses have trouble getting through the mask or jumping the six-feet distance, resisting handwashing, and all of the other things used to stop the spread of COVID-19,” says Dr. Paneth.

Dr. Lampen says the presence of COVID-19 along with relaxed mask-wearing means people need to be more careful when going into offices.

This is because people often still go into work when experiencing minor cold or flu symptoms, but Lampen says it can be hard for people to tell if they have the flu or a mild case of COVID-19.

“As people are coming back into the workplace, I think they’re going to be coming back unmasked largely, and if you have symptoms you should be very aware of that and you should be getting a test before you expose others,” said Dr. Lampen.

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