Twenty counties are at a "Medium" level for COVID-19, while hospitals across the state of Illinois are up 17% as numbers rise for the flu and RSV.

Health officials are urging residents to protect themselves as best they can during this cold and flu season, especially after all the gatherings that took place for Thanksgiving.

Related: Surge Of Dangerous Bacterial Infection Spreading Across Illinois

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Majority of people I know are getting serious respiratory infections and illnesses right now.  I just recovered from having a nasty case of strep throat and it was the most painful sickness I've had in a very long time.

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As much as we can't stand masks because of the years they were made mandatory, sometimes it's not a bad idea to wear a mask if you're going to be around large groups of people or if you feel a cold coming on.

"While the state of Illinois is seeing mixed results with COVID hospitalizations, numbers are trending upward across the U.S. Nationally, emergency department admissions for COVID have increased by 7.1% in recent weeks, with hospital admissions overall up 8.6% during that time." [nbcchicago]

Read More: There’s a New Covid Variant Spreading Across Illinois

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How should you protect yourself from viruses this winter?

1. Avoid close contact in general, especially if someone is sick

2. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze

3. Tons of hand washing when it's available to you

Health officials suggest getting vaccinated, distancing when you can, and stay home when you're feeling under the weather to protect yourself and others.

We all know COVID at-home tests can be expensive, but if you want to get a free kit you can always sign up at COVID.gov.

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