NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The peak of flu season is right around the corner, but Tennessee has seen an early increase in cases. When coupled with the recent rise in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) patients, this could create longer emergency room wait times.

According to hospitalstats.org, most Nashville ER wait times are around 2.5 hours. However, at Vanderbilt University Hospital, it could be five hours before you’re seen by a physician.

TriStar Children’s pediatric hospitalist, Dr. Jennifer Simmons, told News 2 the RSV surge has impacted the hospital, but it’s nothing the staff can’t handle.

“We’re definitely prepared to take care of the community at this point,” Simmons said. “While we are seeing an increase, we have been ready for this.”

Meanwhile, Tennessee is one of five states in the U.S. with “high” flu activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Area doctors said neither the flu nor RSV usually infect people this early in the year. However, the decline in COVID-19 safety protocols could be to blame for the early infections and high case numbers.

“Now that we’re able to start lifting some of our social distancing practices, we’re seeing a significant increase in RSV, and it’s not following the typical time pattern that it followed before,” Simmons said. “Now it’s presenting during the summer, which is atypical, and the high levels we’re seeing now are certainly not typical of RSV.” 

RSV in most healthy adults is often no worse than a common cold, according to Simmons. However, RSV is more serious in infants and those with lung disease, potentially causing difficulty breathing or respiratory failure.

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Simmons told News 2 it’s important parents are aware of RSV’s symptoms, as well as its presence in the community.

“Just because your child has RSV doesn’t mean they’re going to be severely ill,” Simmons said. “The majority of cases of RSV, especially in older individuals and healthy people are simply mild colds, so it’s not something to worry about if your child has RSV, it’s more important how your child looks. Is your child having difficulty breathing? That’s when you need to worry.”

If your child is having difficulty breathing, take them to the ER.

There are several ways you can protect yourself from these respiratory viruses.

For example, getting the flu shot is one way to significantly reduce your chances of contracting the flu.

As for preventing RSV, Simmons said to keep your distance from others with respiratory viruses and practice good hygiene.