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. For those without health insurance, the Mecklenburg County Health Department will give free flu shots to those who qualify.

Carolina’s Medical Center is also offering a number of flu clinics for existing patients:

Providence Pediatrics is now offering the flu vaccine for patients.

• Walk-in flu clinics are available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. No appointment needed.

• Saturday Flu Clinics are available October 1 and October 22, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. by appointment only.

• Evening Flu Clinic is available Tuesday, October 11, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. by appointment only.

• For additional questions or concerns, call 704-667-2600.

Arboretum Pediatrics is now offering flu vaccinations for existing patients. No appointment needed for the following walk-in clinic dates:

• Weeknight flu clinics from 5:45 p.m. to 7 p.m. are available
• Wednesday, September 21
• Tuesday, September 27
• Wednesday, October 12
• Tuesday, October 25
• Thursday, November 10
• Tuesday, November 15

• Weekend flu clinics from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. are available
• Saturday, October 8
• Saturday, October 22
• Saturday, November 5
• Saturday, November 19

• For additional questions or concerns, call 704-512-2610

Charlotte Pediatric Clinic is now offering flu vaccinations for existing patients 6 months and older. Please call 704-367-7400 to schedule your appointment at one of the following flu clinics:
• Charlotte Pediatric Clinic - Blakeney
• Monday, October 3 - 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
• Wednesday, October 12 - 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Wednesday, October 26 - 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

• Charlotte Pediatric Clinic - Matthews
• Wednesday, October 12 - 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Monday, October 18 - 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

• Charlotte Pediatric Clinic - SouthPark
• Thursday, October 6 - 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
• Wednesday, October 12 - 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• Charlotte Pediatric Clinic - Steele Creek
• Tuesday, October 11 - 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.