HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — As the leaves start to change and back to school season is in full swing, germs are continuing to spread.

Local health officials say flu season estimates and severity look to be similar to years past, but regardless, it’s important to protect yourself now.

Fever, coughing, sore throat, fatigue and body aches are all just a few symptoms of the flu.

“If you’re concerned and you feel suspicious, it never hurts to get a second opinion or to be looked at,” said Dr. Stephen Woodall, who practices at Riverside Primary Care Midtown in Williamsburg.

He said they aren’t seeing too many flu cases yet, but recommended getting vaccinated now.

“We recommend getting vaccinated between September and October,” Woodall said. “Anytime is better than no time really, though. It reduces the rate by about 50%, and it also reduces the severity of infection if you were to get it. I know a lot of people scoff, ‘Oh, it’s only 50% effective, but as you can imagine, when you’re dealing with millions of people, 50% can go a long way.”

Woodall said they do usually see a surge during back-to-school time since kids are mingling together again.

He said normally they’re just passing around viral illnesses, because unless the patient is tested, they can’t say it’s the flu.

“Without a formal test, you can’t say whether it’s one type of virus or the other,” Woodall said. “If they have general viral symptoms, you could definitely have your assumptions, but unless you get the actual flu test and it comes back positive, you can just say it looks like a viral illness at this point.”

Woodall said that in order to make projections about what could be seen this fall, they look at the southern hemisphere to see what they’re seeing.

That’s why health officials believe our flu season could be similar to what we’ve seen in years past.

Woodall said that in addition to the vaccine, there are other ways you can protect yourself, too.

“Other things you can do outside of the vaccine are good hand hygiene, washing your hands, not touching your face, things like that,” Woodall said. “If you cough, cough in your elbow or wear a mask if you are concerned.”

Woodall told us you can get the COVID-19 and flu vaccines together, but you must wait a week to get the RSV vaccine.

Riverside has a blog post that breaks down timing of when to get each vaccine. You can read that here: