COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — As the fall respiratory illness season approaches, state health officials discussed the potential for an uptick in cases of respiratory infections Wednesday.

In a recent update, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) shared some precautions they say individuals should take to protect themselves and others from COVID-19, influenza, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

With the anticipation of increased cases in the coming weeks and months, these precautions are crucial for safeguarding public health.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell emphasized the importance of taking respiratory viruses seriously, especially for individuals at higher risk of complications.

According to Bell, these high-risk groups include older adults, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions. However, Dr. Bell stressed that complications can occur in young and previously healthy individuals as well. She said the unpredictability of severe illness makes it vital for everyone to take preventive measures.

State health officials say vaccination is a powerful tool in the fight against respiratory illnesses. Dr. Bell strongly encourages individuals to get vaccinated, especially for those who fall into high-risk categories. She said the yearly flu shot and updated COVID-19 shot will help prevent serious illness.

Dr. Bell also encouraged the RSV shot for those aged sixty or older.

If you experience any symptoms of these respiratory illnesses or test positive for them, it’s crucial to take immediate action. Dr. Bell emphasized the need for testing and responsible behavior.

According to Dr. Bell, if you develop symptoms consistent with these illnesses, seek testing promptly to confirm your status and if you test positive or display symptoms, stay away from others. This isolation helps prevent further spread, whether it’s at work, school, or in your community Dr. Bell said.

Beginning next week, DHEC will start publishing outbreak and surveillance data for these respiratory illnesses in South Carolina.