If you haven't yet gotten a flu shot, now is the time.

Flu season in the U.S. is off to its earliest start in nearly a decade - and it could be a bad one.

Flu vaccinations are recommended for everyone 6 months or older who are in good health. It's best to consult with a physician before getting the vaccine if you have questions.

"It looks like it's shaping up to be a bad flu season, but only time will tell," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The good news is that the nation seems fairly well prepared, Frieden said. More than a third of Americans have been vaccinated, and the vaccine formulated for this year is well-matched to the strains of the virus seen so far, CDC officials said.

The last time a conventional flu season started this early was the winter of 2003-04, which proved to be one of the most lethal seasons in the past 35 years, with more than 48,000 deaths. The dominant type of flu back then was the same one seen this year.

Symptoms can include fever, cough, runny nose, head and body aches and fatigue. Some people also suffer vomiting and diarrhea, and some develop pneumonia or other severe complications.

The best ways to avoid the flu are to wash your hands frequently, cover your coughs and sneezes and to stay home if you're ill.

There are several options on where to receive a flu shot. Doctors administer them as do several pharmacies in the area. The Jefferson County Health Department also offers shots.

Even though the flu season is upon us, it's not too late to act. Take preventative measures to increase you chances of staying healthy this winter.