PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Masks are off in Oregon. Flu cases are now on the uptick.

Even though winter is behind us, the flu is starting to spread now that people taking their masks off let all those germs loose.

It might be hard to tell which it is, COVID or flu or simply a cold. But the viruses all spread the same way — coughing and sneezing droplets from infected people. Testing is the best way to find out which virus you have.

Most people get the flu vaccine in the fall. But plenty of people don’t get the flu vaccine since they figured it doesn’t work or they don’t need it. If you’re in that category, you might want to reconsider your stance.

OHA — Flu Prevention Information

With masks off, businesses returning to in-person work and people in much closer contact than they’ve been in the past 2 years, flu cases are rising in each of the past few weeks.

Dr. Paul Cieslak with the Oregon Health Authority, March 21, 2022 (KOIN)

“We’re seeing the percent positivity — the number of tests that are coming up positive — has been rising in recent weeks. And the fact that our vaccination rate is relatively low this year, and we all just took off our masks, raises the specter that we could be seeing a late but significant flu season,” said Dr. Paul Cieslak with the Oregon Health Authority.

Young children, seniors and those who have chronic health issues such as heart disease are especially vulnerable to serious complications from the flu.

A flu shot is available for anyone older than 6 months.

To be clear, a flu shot does not protect against COVID-19. And there is some concern whether this year’s flu shot mixture is effective enough.

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.