By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – As COVID-19 cases continue to increase, health officials are also tracking a late-season spike of flu cases in many locations, including New Jersey. Flu activity is high across the state of New Jersey.

“It’s been an unusual year for flu,” Dr. Henry Fraimow, infectious disease specialist at Cooper University Hospital, said.

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COVID cases in New Jersey are also up 124% from a month ago, and this is the middle of May when respiratory viruses usually don’t spread like this.

“There’s a lot of things we thought we understood and now we realize that things can behave differently than we’ve always expected that they would,” Dr. Fraimow said.

He says fewer people wearing masks is the main reason the virus is are spreading, and while there are vaccines for both COVID and influenza, they don’t prevent infections — just serious disease.

“The problem is that you can’t often tell by symptoms which is which. And a lot of people test themselves at home for COVID. But they don’t test themselves at home for flu because we don’t have that same degree of home flu testing available. When you go to urgent care or hospital emergency rooms they’ll generally be testing you for both these days because they’re both so prevalent. But a lot of people who have symptoms just test at home, and they say well, I don’t have COVID, therefore I’m fine and they still go out and potentially spread flu,” Dr. Fraimow said.

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There are antivirals for both and there’s another reason people could be suffering from respiratory issues.

“The pollen is shooting through the roof,” Dr. Ezekiel Adewale with Main Line Health said.

Dr. Adewale says quick treatment is critical.

“If you know you’re a patient who has seasonal allergies, and your doctor has already advised you take the antihistamines, start taking them,” Dr. Adewale said.

While congestion can often come with COVID, flu and allergies, fever and achiness usually aren’t associated with allergies. Loss of smell and taste is a hallmark of just COVID, and itchiness is only linked to allergies.

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Doctors say COVID, the flu and allergies can all be potentially dangerous depending on what kind of underlying conditions you might have.

Stephanie Stahl