ATLANTA (AP) - Health officials say this flu season is shaping up to be one of the more severe in recent years. Earlier reports indicated that this could be a bad flu season, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the data now confirm it. In the last week of December flu was widespread in 41 states; flu-related child and infant deaths climbed to 18 and outpatient visits for flu symptoms had jumped to 5.6 percent. Mary Small with the Chelan/Douglas County Public Health District says right now is when residents of North Central Washington are at most risk of getting the flu. . .
The CDC's Tom Skinner says "people who come down with the flu can be pretty sick," with severe muscle aches and high-grade fever lasting 4 or 5 days. Skinner says for "certain groups of people -- mainly children, the elderly, people with underlying health conditions -- it can be life-threatening." He says the vaccine is well-matched to this year's flu strains, but isn't 100 percent effective. It does reduce the severity of the illness for those who do get it, though -- so it's still worth a shot.