CLEVELAND (WJW) – Several versions of the omicron variant are becoming more prevalent as flu season ticks up.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 account for 11% of viruses sampled in the U.S.

BA.4.6 and BF.7 account for another 12.2% and 5.3% of sampled viruses in America, according to the CDC.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, their hospitals are seeing a slight increase in hospitalizations. Across the Buckeye state, cases have increased from the low 800s to 895 as of Tuesday, the Clinic says.

The emergence has experts concerned the next COVID-19 wave could be driven by multiple variants.

Another spike in COVID-19 cases is something no one wants to see happen, especially our local health officials. 

Dr. Prakash Ganesh, Medical Director for The Cuyahoga County Board of Health, says there is a possibility COVID-19 could be among several illnesses to see a spike this flu season. 

“I do expect to see more respiratory illnesses over the winter just because of the various viruses going around,” shared Dr. Ganesh. 

Dr. Ganesh says there are several reasons why there could be a rise in cases. 

First, the latest variants of COVID-19 are a bit milder, making some believe they simply don’t have the virus. 

“When we first had COVID come into the field. We saw very different symptoms. We saw loss of taste, loss of smell. We had people thinking “oh this is not COVID because it’s not like my previous COVID symptoms. I try to steer people away from that,” explained Dr. Ganesh. 

Second, if people don’t continue to take precautions to prevent the spread of the disease.

“Practicing those mitigation strategies when levels are high in the community. Washing hands, staying away from crowded areas as much as possible,” said Dr. Ganesh. 

So, if you are personally worried about the upcoming flu season, Dr. Ganesh says they are still encouraging people to get vaccinated.

“We are pushing and trying to get vaccinated for COVID but also for flu because we are coming into flu season as well. That way we can prevent that next wave,” shared Dr. Ganesh. 

Simply put—it’s the best way to protect our area from another spike. 

“I think that is the important part, you are not only protecting yourself, but you are also protecting your family and community,” explained Dr. Ganesh.