AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The holidays are here, and that means being in close proximity with the ones who mean the most to you. But that also means more exposure to germs and the increased risk of catching a nasty virus.

Local medical centers are dealing with a rise of illnesses in our area, and doctors told NewsChannel 6 it’s important to be prepared so you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

“We have absolutely been seeing a rise of COVID and the flu and also RSV in children,” said Dr. Neeraja Chandrasekaran, an MD at Physicians United Urgent Care. “I would say 9 out of 10 times we see more COVID everyday2, and flu and everything like that.”

She’s seen an uptick in RSV in younger patients, and the flu and COVID in patients of all ages.

“It’s all over the board interestingly enough,” Dr. Chandrasekaran said. “Historically, we have seen it more in more vulnerable populations and elderly above 65, but now it’s just kind of everyone.”

She said holiday gatherings can be breeding grounds for these highly-transmittable viruses.

“People are in close proximity to each other, so that kind of allows for the viruses to circulate. And of course viruses tend to thrive more in cold weather,” she said.

But Dr. Chandrasekaran also told us there are things people can still do to keep from getting sick this Holiday season.

“It’s never too late to get vaccinated. You can go to your pharmacy, your primary care doctor, we even do it here at Physician’s United,” she said. “Now, in terms of whether it would kick in [before the holidays], it’s really dependent on everyone’s immunity and how their body reacts to it, but I would just recommend going ahead and getting it.”

Basic cleanliness could also go a long way.

“Practicing good hand hygiene really helps. Avoid touching your mouth, your nose and touching surfaces. Make sure you keep surfaces also disinfected too,” Dr. Chandrasekaran said.

She also recommended taking precautions such as social distancing and mask wearing if a family member or someone in close contact was recently exposed to any of these illnesses.