Normally when we reach the last couple of weeks in April, flu season is winding down or gone completely, but that’s certainly not the case this year.

Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the director of communicable disease services for the New Jersey Health Department, said influenza activity is increasing in all regions of New Jersey, which is unusual.

The state Health Department flu tracker map shows influenza levels are high for the entire Garden State except for the Central-West region, where it is medium.

Flu and COVID cases both rising

As flu cases spike, positive COVID cases are also on the rise in New Jersey, and spring allergy season is in full swing, so how do you know what’s what?

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“Straight up, my answer is going to be you very well may not know for sure,” Lifshitz said

In many cases involving influenza, one minute you’re feeling fine, and a short time later you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck with a high fever, chills, a cough, sore throat and body aches.

He said some of these symptoms may also occur with COVID, along with a loss of the sense of taste and smell and allergy symptoms typically involve itchy eyes, a runny nose and sneezing, but sometimes that’s not the case.

Sick woman

“Unfortunately, these things don’t always read the textbook, and you can have mild cases of flu and mild cases of COVID and symptoms of allergies that can seem much like the others,” he said.

Flu vs. COVID vs. allergy symptoms

The only way to be sure is to get tested.

“You want to be careful about not spreading COVID around. If you’re not sure, go and get a test. An at-home COVID test would be a great way to start," Lifshitz said.

Should you get a flu shot in the spring?

“While the flu virus is still circulating we would encourage people to go get flu shots, and particularly those who are at high risk for a severe outcome from flu," Lifshitz said.

He pointed out no one knows for sure why flu is surging right now, but relaxing COVID masking and social distance guidelines certain is having an influence.

“Last season there was essentially no flu season. Why was there essentially no flu season? Well, because the same precautions that people were taking to protect against COVID, are also effective at protecting against the flu," he said.

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