Along with milder weather, fall foliage and pumpkin-flavored food, one unwelcome aspect of autumn may make a big comeback this month — influenza.

October marks the official start of flu season. That means it’s the time of year when the virus that causes the seasonal flu begins circulating more broadly.

The flu season lasts through May, but cases usually peak in Ohio sometime in December, January or February, said Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts.

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On top of the flu, COVID-19 continues to circulate and could rebound just as the flu takes off throughout the greater Columbus area and Ohio as a whole.

With that in mind, The Dispatch spoke with local doctors about what Ohioans should expect from the flu this year and if and when they should consider getting a flu shot.

Here’s what they said.

Doctors say vaccines, masks and hand washing are all helplful in avoiding a severe flu season.

How bad will this flu season be?

It’s anyone’s guess.

But, given the last two flu seasons have been on the milder side due to anti-COVID measures such as masking and social distancing, this flu season could end up being the worst in three years, Roberts said. While the flu typically peaks in late winter or early spring, Roberts said she wouldn’t be surprised if it peaked early this season since fewer people have caught it the last two years.