CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – As the Omicron variant is becoming the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States, health officials in West Virginia are urging people to be cautious.

Dr. Sherri Young at the Kanawha Charleston Health Department says this year we’re seeing an uptick in the flu and other respiratory illnesses. She says this is because last year, more people stayed home and more people received their flu shot.

“This year are we not only still battling covid but we’re also battling the flu, there’s lots of respiratory virus, other pecorino viruses that are circulating right now,” says Young.

And with all these diseases going around, sometimes the symptoms all seem the same. Young adds, “The best advice I can give is treat symptoms, and if you’re sick, regardless of if you think it’s COVID or not, stay home, don’t get the family sick it’s not worth it for the holidays.”

Experts do caution to use emergency rooms and hospitals as a last resort, as they continue to remain short-staffed. “What we do know is the hospitals are being stretched not only in the United States but across the world, not only with the omicron variants impact but with the delta variant and influenza,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s Covid Czar.

“Even if you have a minor illness or you’re not sure what it is, come get tested that way we know if we’re dealing with covid they can be very serious or a cold that might not be quite as serious,” says Young.

The symptoms of the Omicron variant are still unclear but Young says it doesn’t appear to be as severe as the Delta variant. “It does appear that it might be a little more mild in symptoms, some people are still reporting the upper respiratory symptoms, some GI symptoms with it, cough, congestion, some have lost of smell and taste but some don’t. Some of the early reports that came out of South Africa, they didn’t have the loss of taste or smell but they did have extreme fatigue.”

Young adds that on top of everything the supply chain isn’t helping the situation. For example, they have a bunch of vaccines and booster doses but they are running short on tests and antibody treatment.