PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — It’s that time of year: the leaves are falling but the threat of viral infections remains intact. A map of the current state of the flu in the U.S. shows North Carolina has reached the moderate range, and Virginia is approaching it.

“This is the time of year that people get together… but we always encourage people to look out for their health and the health of people around them this time of year,” said Julian Walker, vice president of communications with the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association.

During the fall and winter of 2022-2023, hospitals were overwhelmed with COVID-19 infections.

This season, the association is monitoring a significant improvement.

“The 30-day average of previous-day adult admissions in Virginia hospitals in September was 68, also 68 in October,” Walker said. “As of November, the middle of this month, it was 28.”

Across the state, flu activity remains low but Walker says holiday gatherings are still the perfect recipe for spreading infectious diseases.

“We know that when temperatures get colder and people spend more time together indoors and they are in closer settings with each other, that can be when viral illness can spread,” Walker said.

Regina Mobley: What is your advice to families that will be traveling and gathering indoors for extended periods beginning in November and right through New Year?

Julian Walker: We are very clear and support annual flu shots … The same thing is true for COVID-19 shots. For vaccinations, we encourage people to do that. There is a new formulation of the COVID-19 shot available this fall for some of the more emerging variants. … As it relates to RSV, there are also treatments that are available including for older adults and pregnant women.

Masking-up is up to you, said Walker, who recommends Virginians follow the basics such as frequent hand-washing and covering of the mouth when sneezing.