As new omicron variants continue to emerge and infect people, New Jersey medical experts are warning about several diseases that can be hiding in the shadows of COVID.

Gemma Downham, the corporate director of infection, prevention, patient safety and clinical risk management at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, said if your body just finished fighting COVID, you could be at risk for developing other infections.

“Your immune system has just battled a virus, and that’s when other viruses can kind of sneak in and also infect you," Downham said. "We see patients that get the flu or have pneumonia after just getting over COVID."

She said it's an area that is newly being researched, and that while mild cases of COVID can take a toll on the body, it's the severe cases that leave people more susceptible.

Other problems may occur as well

Downham said new research shows that people that have had COVID are at a greater risk of developing shingles.

“Shingles seems to be affecting more individuals, especially older individuals that have had COVID, even if they had a mild case.”

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Younger people are also at risk

Downham said while older folks are frequently more susceptible to post-COVID health issues, that’s not always the case.

“It depends on disease severity and immune state of the individual, so yes, we do see younger people do tend to get some of these post-COVID additional infections.”

And while people don't tend to think of summer as a time of year for illnesses, they are lurking.

“In the summertime, we see what’s called coxsackievirus, and that’s hand, foot, and mouth disease which can cause very high fever, sores on the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet.”

She said other summertime illnesses include adenovirus, which can cause fever and sore throat, and enterovirus that can cause vomiting, diarrhea and fever.

Protect your health

“In general we just really want to make sure that people are staying home when they’re sick, they’re washing their hands, they’re following food safety guidelines,” said Downham.

She added New Jersey residents of all ages are being urged “to stay up to date on all of the vaccines, flu, COVID, pneumococcal and shingles.”

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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