is it covid The flu? RSV? New Yorkers are sick of being sick.

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

The culprit could be respiratory syncytial virus known as RSV, which has been on the rise this season, but he’s not sure. It really could be anything.

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

His mysterious virus is among a whirlwind of diseases sweeping New Yorkers this winter with bewildering and wretched symptoms — a toxic cocktail made worse by cramped apartments, subway cars and classrooms where masks are now optional.

In the face of such a relentless onslaught, New Yorkers seem to have mixed feelings, feeling worried, tired and reconciled to a new “new normal”. Not only do you live amidst 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 some disease going on,” said Lester Sykes, 35, who lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn and walked Raja, his Pharaoh Hound. “Everyone is super conscious of their health now,” he said.

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

According to the city, the number of Covid cases has risen about 31 percent since Thanksgiving and is now at about 3,600 a day. However, the actual total case count is much higher because that number doesn’t include at-home testing, which is now widely available. Meanwhile, flu cases have skyrocketed in the last two weeks and are at higher levels than at any time since 2018. Good news: RSV appears to have peaked in mid-November and is declining, although its levels are also unchanged at high levels .

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

Still, parents are concerned, especially those of young children born at the beginning of or during the pandemic, when lockdown protected them from germs and potentially made them more vulnerable to the current virus crop.

Mr. Merriam’s two daughters, 10 and 13, had both the coronavirus and the flu. He’s never really been concerned about strep throat, but now that it’s in the news – following fatal cases in the UK where nearly 20 children have died from Strep A, a bacterial infection that causes strep throat – he’s more vigilant.

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

RSV was the predominant viral cause of Cohen’s intake, followed by the flu, he said, while Covid was not a major contributor. For the past seven days, he said, the hospital has treated an average of about 260 children in the emergency room every day and is at 105 to 120 percent occupancy.

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

“Probably part of this has to do with the fact that children are now being exposed to viruses that they haven’t had immunological exposure to for the last two years because of masking and social distancing and whatnot,” said Dr. Harris said. “The nature of these viral diseases has changed due to the diversity of mitigation strategies adopted.”

At Cohen, employees are “overwhelmed,” he said, by the spate of visits and emergency rooms and the shortage of pediatricians, a trend across the country.

“The percentage of children who need to be admitted to the ICU is not significantly higher than in the past,” he added, “but the total number of children presenting far exceeds anything I’ve seen.” I can tell you, if you look back over the last 10 years of 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 was concerned because her 5-year-old son Benjamin had been repeatedly ill for months.

“Every week or two he gets sick, fever, cough, runny nose,” she said. “I was scared.”

Woman. Cabanas had to keep Benjamin out of school and said she had to look for Tylenol for Kids on Facebook because stores were selling out. While 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 Spirit Troy Closon contributed reporting.

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