ATLANTA -- 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.

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.

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