DURHAM (WTVD) -- The State Department of Health and Human Services is putting out an alert to North Carolinians to start getting flu shots now.
As the Chief Medical Officer at Lincoln Community Health Center in Durham, Howard Eisenson, MD says this is when he typically starts administering flu shots to patients.
"It takes several weeks for the immunization to take effect. That's why we recommend that September is a good time to get immunized," says Dr. Eisenson.
And health officials say it's especially important to get an early jump considering flu season has started early here for the past three years. Also, during the 2014-2015 flu season North Carolina saw its highest number of flu-related deaths in six years.
"I don't think most people realize that thousands of people die every year in the United States from complications of influenza, probably more than 30,000 people," warns Dr. Eisenson.
He adds that the best way to protect yourself is by getting the flu vaccine, especially if you're considered a high risk patient, which includes adults over 65, children under 5, pregnant women, and those with certain medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease.
As for concerns that you can get the flu from the flu shot, Eisenson reiterates that those fears are unfounded.
"They're not getting the flu, the vaccine will not make you sick with influenza," he says. "Most of us who get the vaccine have no noticeable side effects at all, so it's really very safe and it's much, much safer than getting sick with the flu."