MGH seeing staggering increase in flu cases - with no relief in sight

BOSTON — In Boston and across the country, emergency rooms are filled with people seeking relief from the flu.

This year, a tough new flu strain is sweeping across the country, and in a disturbing trend, more people are dying.

"At Mass General, we are having one of the worst flu years we've had," said Dr. Ali Raja, Vice Chair MGH ER Medicine.

At Mass General Hospital, this year's flu epidemic has them concerned. This month, MGH is seeing a 250 percent increase in flu cases over last January. They are bracing for February, typically the worst month for the flu.

And there is no relief across the country.

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"Every single state in the continental U.S. is affected, but not just affected, but affected really badly," said Raja.

Most alarming of all, for a growing number of people, the flu this year has been deadly. Dr. Raja tells Boston 25 News the flu virus, by itself, doesn't kill. Instead, it's another infection that strikes at the worst possible time.

"When a healthy person dies of the flu in 24 hours, it's definitely alarming. And that is almost always a because of the fact that their body is weak from the flu, and some other infection has come in and run rampant," said Raja.

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A lot of people simply don't call the doctor when they come down with the flu, they simply like to ride it out. But that phone call, in some cases, could save your life.

The question is, how do you know when it's time to make that call?

"If you start feeling anything different than you've had before with the flu, or if you have any symptoms that really concern you, call your doctor, go to an urgent care, call your nurse practitioner. Whoever takes care of you," said Raja.

Dr. Raja says the best defense against the flu, is still the flu shot - and don't forget to keep washing your hands.