Nov 21, 2022 - News

Brutal flu season hits Nashville

Influenza activity levels
Data: CDC; Map: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Tennessee is one of four states with a very high number of flu cases and pediatric hospitals have been hit especially hard.

Driving the news: A flu specialist with Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt tells Axios it's the most severe flu cases have been at this point in the season since swine flu swept through Nashville in 2009.

  • In addition to the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID are leading to busy pediatric hospitals.

What's happening: According to the most recent CDC flu map, Tennessee, Virginia, Alabama and South Carolina are the states experiencing a crush of flu cases. Washington, D.C., also has very high case counts.

What he's saying: Vanderbilt's James Antoon tells Axios that pandemic measures implemented in 2020 led to "a very impressive and dramatic drop" in respiratory and viral illnesses in children. When society reopened last year, he says, there was an unprecedented summer surge in RSV cases.

  • That's been followed up this year by an early and severe surge, which Antoon says the hospital has not seen before, followed closely by an "early and severe" flu season.
  • "What we think is happening is pandemic measures have thrown off the typical seasonality of our viruses," he says, adding that it is unknown if the colder weather will trigger a rise in COVID cases.

Be smart: Antoon encourages eligible children to be vaccinated and for families to employ the commonsense measures of which we are so familiar post-COVID: frequent hand-washing, covering your mouth to sneeze and cough and staying home if you are experiencing symptoms.

  • "We're not at capacity. We're not concerned with having enough ventilators. We're doing well with these cases, but it is a lot more RSV and influenza than we typically see at this point," he says.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the correct spelling of Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital.


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