MINNEAPOLIS -- Flu season is well underway and now it's partnered up with the latest worldwide virus, COVID, as our "new normal."

However, the impact of the virus for many is less severe.

"I don't think there's going to be a public health recommendation for masking. It's just too potentially controversial," said Dr. Frank Rhame, an Allina Heath Infectious Disease Physician.

Rhame says mandatory masking isn't coming back, even though COVID isn't going away.

Rhame says the virus is constantly mutating and changing, so if people want to protect themselves from it, it's recommended to get vaccinated annually, just like we do with flu season.

"I think, between the two of them, we're going to be doing them every fall, could even be sooner. We had a big jump when we went from Delta to Omicron," said Rhame.

Rhame says as people get COVID for a second, and third time, their symptoms will be less severe, which is why he emphasizes the importance of testing.

"Upper respiratory tract symptoms, in today's world, you should get a COVID test," said Rhame.

Upper respiratory tract symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose

Those symptoms could be confused as seasonal allergies, but Rhame says there's a difference.

"Most people who get allergies recognize the difference. They get more itchy, watery eyes and watery nasal discharge," said Rhame.

Rhame also recommends testing for lower respiratory tract symptoms, which include:

  • Severe cough
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness

In addition to our bodies handling the virus better, Rhame says there are also better treatments for COVID that can shorten the symptoms and help with recovery.

The CDC provides updated data on COVID cases by county across the country. If your county is green, cases are low. If they're yellow or orange, cases are on the rise.

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