PARMA, Ohio-- It's been a brutal year for the flu. But, the seasonal sickness could be masking an even deadlier health risk.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu is also associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. The problem is: when someone has the flu, they could also be showing heart attack symptoms and not even realize it.
Sean Francis works as a physician assistant at University Hospitals Parma Medical Center. Francis said he put off going to the ER for hours, even though he had chest pain. He thought it was just another symptom of the flu, and he didn't want to seem weak. But, he did eventually go in and a blocked artery was found.
He was rushed to surgery where a shunt was put in. He's recovering well. "If you do get checked out and you're wrong, nobody gets hurt; if you get checked out and you're right, you might save your own life," Francis said.
Doctors say the decision to go to the emergency room can mean the difference between life and death. "I'm sure many people have had coughs and other respiratory infections, that have caused discomfort in the chest when they're coughing, when they're not feeling well. So it can be a little difficult to sort out; but that's really our job to sort out, so if you're really feeling discomfort in the chest, then we really strongly advise you seek medical attention," said Dr. John Mansour, Interventional Cardiologist at University Hospitals.
Doctors stress any type of chest pain or shortness of breath should not be ignored.