ATLANTA (AP/ABC7) - 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.
Sick absences at work and at schools are on the rise.
Fairfax resident Chris Donohue decided to get his flu shot Monday, because a neighbor was hospitalized with the flu.
"My family got it, so I needed to catch up," Donohue said.
The demand for the vaccine was so high many pharmacies ran out of the flu vaccine this weekend.
A Safeway in Fairfax received a special shipment of 30 doses Monday.
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.