TODAY | January 05, 2013
>>> officials say the flu season is off to the most active start in a decade. this is a particularly nasty one and has proven deadly in a number of cases including the young. more from robert bazell .
>>> you've had the flu shot before?
>> reporter: packed clinics across the country and the cdc's numbers confirm that what was already a bad flu season is quickly getting worse.
>> we're seeing people with really high fever, severe body aches, nasal congestion, cough.
>> reporter: doctors say the major strain circulating is making its victims especially sick. in some cases, it's proven deadly. high school senior max shalwart died the day after christmas.
>> it started as flu, turned into pneumonia, and he had a staph infection on top of that. the three things took over quickly.
>> reporter: he was one of 18 deaths in children and teenager this year. doctors say the best defense remains the flu vaccine . it's not perfect, but it's the best we've got. and there's time and vaccine left. they urge people who are sick to stay away from work to avoid infecting others. the flu virus is often transmitted with coughs and sneezes, but it can live on all the surfaces we touch. think how many there are for up to eight hours. that's why frequent hand washing is so important. increasingly, hospitals are taking a big step, requiring health care workers to get vaccinated or lose their jobs. until recently, fewer than half got the vaccine. experts say that puts patients at risk and sets a very bad example.
>> it's a perfectly reasonable thing for the public to say goodness, if my doctor or nurse don't get vaccinated, why should i.
>> took notes --
>> reporter: sue schrock and joyce gingrich are among aide nurses fired from goshen hospital in indiana for refusing to get vaccinated.
>> i have a right to put in my body what i feel is right for me under god. it's wrong, i believe, for employers to take away my rights.
>> reporter: but the hospital says the nurses don't have the right to be around patients unless they are vaccinated. this clash may ultimately be decided by the courts. one of the worst flu epidemics in many years continues to grow. for "today," robert bazell , nbc news, new york.