CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Health Departments in South and North Carolina say the states have both suffered their first flu-associated deaths of the season, putting health officials on high alert.

“That’s concerning. I mean this is very early in the season and to have a flu case that ends up in a death does make me worry that this could be a tougher season,” said Dr. Marcus Plescia, with the Mecklenburg County Health Department.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 36,000 people die every year from illnesses associated with the virus also referred to as Influenza. Dr. Plescia says typically, cases of the virus pop in November and December, but this year’s early death cases have him urging people not to wait and to get vaccinated now.

“Now we have a specific example of i'ts already out there, so now’s the time to get the shot, because now’s the time you could get exposed to the flu,” he says.

He says those most at risk include children under age 5, adults over age 65 and pregnant women, but he says everyone, regardless of your risk, should get a flu shot.

“The last thing you want to do is get the flu, bring it home, get into contact with one of your loved ones who is in their 70s and then you’ve given them the flu,” says Dr. Plescia.

He says not only are the shots very safe, but they’re well tested.

“You know we may be due for a flu season that’s a lot stronger. I hope that’s not going to be the case, but I am a little concerned,” says Dr. Plescia.

To get your flu shot, contact your doctor or stop by your local pharmacy.