By Christina Hager

BOSTON (CBS) – The symptoms feel, look and sound like COVID. But this time, it’s the old-fashioned flu that’s putting even more of a strain on doctors’ offices that are already getting slammed.

“We’ve been running at max capacity for the last several months because of COVID and because of all the other patients that we’re seeing,” said Dr. Benjamin Milligan, chief of Emergency Medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance. “Now, we’re seeing the flu on top of that, adding into it staffing shortages.”

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He said last year, CHA providers had zero flu cases. This season has been very different. “Fevers, body aches, cough, runny nose, sore throats, really just feeling lousy.”

Massachusetts General Hospital had 110 patients test positive for flu in the last two weeks. Twelve were hospitalized. The state reports nearly 600.

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“The challenge, of course, is the overlap in symptoms,” said Dr. David Hooper, chief of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Infection Control Unit. “The symptoms of COVID and influenza can be virtually the same. We are routinely now, people who have respiratory symptoms, we test for both,” he said.

Things were so busy at a walk-in clinic in Natick on Wednesday, people couldn’t get in for routine check-ups. “They said it was backed up in there,” said John Restuccia, from Mendon. “They said didn’t know when I could get my physical.”

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Doctors are encouraging people to get flu vaccines, in hopes that shots might head off another surge. They say the flu virus is transmitted the same way COVID is, so washing hands and wearing masks help with prevention, all things we’re used to doing by now.

Christina Hager