SAVOY, Ill. (WCIA) — As the weather changes, a familiar virus is making a return. OSF Internist Doctor Andrew Zasada said there’s a good way to stop it.

The Federal Drug Association and Centers for Disease Control approved the latest vaccine and COVID-19 booster. The decision comes after concern about the spread of new variants. The new shots will be similar to previous formulas but updated to target current variants like XBB, which shares some characteristics of last winter’s Omicron virus that surged last winter.

“It’s a little less virulent than the original strains were. Maybe a little bit milder, but it’s also more transmissible,” Dr. Zasada said. “We have seen, even nationally, but in the area, a rise in cases of COVID.”

CDC data shows more than 15,000 new COVID hospitalizations in the last month. The numbers have increased for about eight straight weeks and are expected to continue rising. Zasada said COVID could eventually become a regular occurrence.

“Just like the flu, it goes around pretty much every year or twice a year. Unfortunately, this virus tends to mutate so quickly that we never know what to expect.”

The CDC said side effects vary from person to person, and serious health problems from the vaccine are rare but can cause long-term health issues. Zasada said the booster is the best way to protect against the new variant.

“It is still COVID and occasionally people do die. This is a way to mitigate those symptoms and make you less likely to have any severe consequences,” he said.

Zasada has noticed an uptick in COVID-related cases, and that children and people with immune problems are likely to get it first.

“Even though it’s the same virus, it’s mutated enough where the old vaccines just don’t affect it anymore.”

He said being proactive instead of waiting for it to get worse is best. 

“Don’t be afraid, but take precautions as I said earlier,” Zasada said. “Hygiene, hand washing, getting enough sleep, eating well, taking care of any other health problems and dressing appropriately for the weather.”

For flu shots, the CDC recommends anyone over six months get vaccinated by the end of October. The CDC also said it is safe to get your flu shot and COVID booster at the same time.