Are you sick, too? If not COVID, you may have another virus spreading in Florida

kieferpix/Getty Images/iStockphoto

It’s not your imagination. It seems like everyone is getting sick in Florida.

Kids. Seniors. Family. Friends.

Even doctors.

“Unfortunately, during this time of year, everybody gets equal opportunity” of catching a cold, said Dr. Ladan Pourmasiha, a family medicine physician who also serves as medical director for Baptist Health South Florida’s Urgent Care Centers in Broward County.

The doctor and mother of two is feeling a bit under the weather.

“Whatever they get, goes to mommy,” Pourmasiha said.

And while COVID-19 is still around, it’s not the only virus that could be making your co-worker ill.

READ NEXT: Flu, RSV on the rise — there’s COVID, too. What to know ahead of the holidays in Florida

Influenza, RSV and other respiratory illnesses are making their way around town. All of these viruses have similar cold-like symptoms, so unless you get tested, it can be hard to tell what you have.

For Barbara Colonna and Sonia Diaz, their colds came in the form of sore throats and congestion.

“I felt like my head was underwater,” Colonna said. She had to use “boxes and boxes of aloe-coated tissues” for her red, stuffy nose.

Colonna, a retired University of Miami professor, thinks her husband gave it to her. He got sick a few days after flying back from Hawaii. It was the first time she got sick since she flew back from a trip to Iceland last year.

Diaz, founder and president of Zaid Communications, got sick after traveling to visit family in the Dominican Republic.

Both Colonna and Diaz tested negative for COVID-19.

Colonna said she still took precautions and avoided going to the gym. She canceled her appointments, isolated a few days at home, and also wore a mask for two weeks in public places — just in case.

Diaz, who said she usually doesn’t get sick, felt extremely tired, and wonders if she had the flu. It hit her harder than COVID.

“It just really ran me down,” Diaz said.

And they’re not alone.

Doctors are noticing an increase of people sick with cold-like symptoms, including cough, congestion, runny nose, sore throat, headaches and body aches.

Pourmasiha and other South Florida doctors say it’s likely that more adults and kids are getting sick this year because fewer of them were exposed to the flu and other viruses during the pandemic.

“Even prior to COVID, there were times where people were getting triple infections and dual infections. And even still now, we see combinations of bacterial and viral infections. I’ve seen strep with flu, I’ve seen flu with COVID. I’ve seen COVID with strep, so it’s definitely a combination,” Pourmasiha said.

“And as we start to build our immunity that we didn’t get for the past two years — because so many of these viruses were nearly non-existent because of social distancing and masking — we’re gonna start seeing dual infections and triple infection so we’re just going to have to wait this course out.”

And while anyone is at risk of getting sick, particularly now during flu and RSV season, doctors are more concerned for those who are considered to have a higher risk for complications, including infants, seniors and the immunocompromised.

South Florida children’s hospitals are also closely monitoring for respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, which has led to an above average number of cases in the state. It’s a common childhood virus, and while it’s usually mild, some kids can get seriously ill.

READ MORE: Is your kid sick? South Florida seeing more respiratory illness — here’s what to know

How to avoid getting sick

Wash your hands frequently to help reduce your risk of getting ill. An earlier flu season this year has led to more people in the hospital at levels not seen in more than a decade.

Dr. Pourmasiha is encouraging people to get their flu shots, as well as the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster, which targets the original strain of COVID as well as omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, to reduce the risk of getting seriously ill.

The doctor says you might want to consider wearing a mask in certain situations, too, such as if you’re traveling on a plane.

READ NEXT: Still on the fence about getting a flu vaccine? These stores may pay you to get a shot