Flu season hits early, patients flood hospitals

Researchers at the University of Maryland are trying to figure out why this year’s flu season is so much worse. Local hospitals are seeing a serious increase in the number of patients coming to the emergency rooms.

The hallways at Washington Hospital Center are full of hospital beds and waiting rooms are completely packed. It’s the earliest start for this particular virus in nearly a decade.

"Headache, sore throat, cough and body ache,” Dr. Bill Frohna, a physician at Washington Hospital Center.

So far this season the hospital has had 139 confirmed cases of the flu and it’s still early.

The University of Maryland is tracking the regional flu cases and Dr. Don Milton has a theory.

“One of the striking things is since New Year’s the majority of people we’ve tested would come up positive, have dual infections. Several people had flu A and another virus called RSV for short or respiratory syncytial virus.

The professor is recruiting flu patients, paying them $100 to take part in his study.

For a half hour a volunteer sits in a machine, breathing, coughing and sneezing. Measuring the results he’s trying to figure out how the flu spreads. The virus stays alive for hours outside the body and this year it’s traveling from person to person at record speed.

"We can probably anticipate another several weeks of this high volume before it starts to level off and come down,” says Dr. Frohna.

Federal health officials Wednesday urged all Americans to get a flu shot.