CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Health officials are warning the flu season could be a severe one and the flu shot may not be as effective as they hope.

As flu season is wrapping up in the Southern Hemisphere of the world, influenza cases were more widespread, and more severe, health officials say. The flu shot, which boasts a 40% effectiveness rate on an average year, only appeared to be about 10% this year.

The same formula of the flu shot used in that part of the world is the one that is being circulated here in the United States, too, prompting doctors to fear that we will see a spike in the number of cases this year.

"I think people should not be taking any risks whatsoever," says Dr. Arash Poursina, an infectious disease specialist at Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill.

North Carolina has already had 3 flu-related deaths. South Carolina has had one.

Doctors at Piedmont Medical Center say they are treating cases of the flu every day. The majority of the severe cases are in the very young and the very old.

Poursina says, the early warning that the flu shot may not be as effective this year could actually be helpful in how medical professionals handle cases.

Standard protocol in the United States now suggest that the best way to handle a potential flu case is to treat it immediately, rather than waiting for lab results.

Poursina says, given how severe the flu season is projected to be this year, he is strongly encouraging everyone to get the flu shot, regardless of its effectiveness.

"The vaccine is still the best bet we have, the best tool we have," Poursina says. He says, even if you do contract the flu, the shot will help mitigate the severity, and could help prevent it from spreading.

"Influenza is a deadly disease," he says. "The more seriously we take it the better."