CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- An area hospital system is taking a big step in the fight against the flu.
All Novant Health workers, including volunteers and vendors, are now required to get a flu vaccine starting this fall.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, last flu season started four weeks earlier than years past.
It was so bad that many area hospitals were forced to take special measures.
The hospitals in Carolina's Healthcare System restricted visitors under the age of 12, and Novant Urgent Care in Matthews saw up to 40 cases of flu a day.
This coming flu season remains up in the air.
"We just don't know. It might be a mild one, it might be another bad one, it could be a terrible one," according to Dr. Charles Bregier with Novant Health.
Dr. Bregier says the flu vaccine requirement is in everyone’s' interest.
"People don't realize, but many people, many thousands of people die every year from the flu and complications of the flu. So really many lives will be saved."
According to officials, workers can be exempt from the vaccine for religious or health reasons. Those exemptions must be approved by a special Novant committee.
Carolina's HealthCare System does not require employees to get a flu vaccine.
However, employees who decline the vaccine are asked to sign an acknowledgment and wear a surgical mask.
The health system will review that policy in August.