Flu fears flare as Tennessee hospitals near capacity

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s not a surprise viruses other than COVID started to circulate as restrictions were lifted and people started to gather.

But, one in particular, called RSV has caught the eye of Dr. William Schaffner a Professor of Infectious Disease at Vanderbilt. “That’s been out there in a very unseasonal fashion. That shouldn’t be here now. The virus is confused.”

Another question lingering right now -will influenza follow suit? Also, popping up out of season and with a vengeance?

“Everybody is wondering, including the flu experts, how much flu we’ll get this fall and coming winter?” says Dr. Schaffner.

In the past few weeks, the CDC’s influenza tracker shows flu activity is out there creeping through the country including here in Tennessee.

“Which is a ‘hello! influenza season is coming down the road,'” Dr. Schaffner warns.

Local hospitals are already feeling the pressure with an increase in COVID patients straining resources.

“Nashville, there have been days where we as a city have essentially been out of beds,” explains Dr. Marshall Hall, Medical Director of the Emergency Department at TriStar Skyline Medical Center.

Hall continues, “Does that mean we had 100% of the beds in utilization? Probably not. But, the system needs some flex.”

The focus stretches beyond Tennessee’s border. As other states attempt to manage an increase in patients, hospitals turn to us.

“Surrounding states are essentially out of beds and we’re now getting transfer requests from out of state,” Hall says.

Which won’t always be an option if people continue to require hospitalization for any of these viruses.

“If we have other respiratory viruses such as flu and this RSV also being active in the population,” Schaffner warns, “that could cause a logjam in our hospitals and all sort of facilities in a very serious way.”

While both doctors agree, the upcoming flu season is still too unpredictable, they say personal decisions can help control the outcome.

Schaffner says, “The two best ways to avoid that is to get vaccinated against COVID, and come late September, early October, get vaccinated against flu also.”

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