This year’s flu season may be a bad one. Here’s why you need a flu shot.

Flu seasons are notoriously unpredictable, but there are already clues that the upcoming season may be especially difficult.

Flu season in the Southern Hemisphere can be an indication of what’s to come in the Northern Hemisphere, and the recent flu season in Australia, where winter has just ended, arrived early and with a vengeance. A particularly virulent flu strain, H3N2, dominated.

What’s more, a pediatric flu death has already been reported in the U.S. — a 4 year old in California who had underlying health problems.

“We should never forget that the flu still kills,” Dr. Cameron Kaiser, a public health officer for Riverside County, California, said in a news release announcing the death.

“A death so early in the flu season suggests this year may be worse than usual,” Kaiser warned.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that last year, there were 37 million to 43 million flu illnesses in the U.S., and 36,400 to 61,200 flu-related deaths.

Last year’s flu season ran from Oct. 1, 2018, to May 4.

Is it too early to get the flu vaccine?

No. Doctors say people should get the flu vaccine now, and certainly before Thanksgiving.

“The concern with delaying it is that some people who might have the opportunity to get vaccinated now may not have that opportunity later,” said Dr. Robert Atmar, a professor of medicine and an infectious disease expert at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

“The most important thing is for people to get their flu vaccine, and get it before the epidemic starts,” he said.

Most healthy people who get the shot in September can expect some protection through the spring. But older adults may want to schedule their vaccination for sometime in October.

“There is a concern that some older people may have their immunity wane simply because their immune system is more frail, less robust,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

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