Expert diagnosticians in Chicago for a College of American Pathologists’ annual meeting advised scheduling an updated COVID-19 shot as one of the best ways to stay healthy this fall.

Diseases like COVID-19, the flu and RSV “may be off the front pages right now, but we’re saying, ‘not so fast.’ They’re very much still with us,” said Dr. Donald Karcher, president of the group.

With hospitalizations rising, “getting vaccinated is the easiest way to protect you and your loved ones,” Duke University pathologist Diana Cardona said during a media briefing Tuesday.

“The virus continues to mutate, and this new (COVID-19) vaccine is going to help protect you better with those new variants.”

Those most at risk of complications and hospitalization from COVID-19 are the elderly or those with underlying medical issues, she said.

Texas-based pathologist Leilani Valdes noted the COVID-19’s “virus’s one job is to stay alive. They can’t stay alive without being in a host, and we are their hosts.”

One way of thinking about COVID-19 mutations is they are “the virus evolving to outwit the host. So, it’s important to get vaccinated and allow our bodies to fight these new mutations that the virus is using to try and stay alive,” Valdes said.



Both advocated using at-home test kits, now available for free from the federal government, if you have COVID-19 symptoms.

But it’s important to precisely follow the directions or you could get a false negative, Cardona said. If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19 or your illness persists, she strongly recommends getting a PCR test from a doctor’s office or clinic.

Asked how you can tell the difference between flu and COVID-19, experts said both illnesses can include a runny nose, coughing and fatigue. But if symptoms continue, you have trouble breathing or lose your sense of smell, it’s important to see a doctor.

They also offered two easy tips to avoid getting sick and spreading disease — wash your hands and stay at home if you’re ill.


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