MEMPHIS, Tenn. — With Thanksgiving only 10 days away, there’s still concern about the flu and RSV, which seem to be appearing earlier than in years past.
Last week, more than 11 percent of emergency room visits were from flu-like illnesses, according to the Shelby County Health Department. That’s almost a 10% increase over this time last year.
Memphis hospitals are saying cases of flu are happening weeks earlier than in the past, and according to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, the same can be said about RSV.
“We haven’t seen the peak of those two viruses, RSV and influenza happening at the same time,” said Dr. Nick Hysmith, Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Le Bonheur. “Influenza usually comes at the end of the winter, we have RSV that’s in the winter as well that affects children less than two, that usually comes a little bit earlier in the winter, we usually see that in October, November.”
According to Le Bonheur, Memphis should be on the tail-end of the RSV wave. Le Bonheur itself saw a sharp increase in cases during the summer months.
“RSV started to come up early a month and a half or a month or so ago, has peaked and it’s now coming down,” said Dr. Hysmith.
Only one case of RSV has been reported at Le Bonheur in the past 24 hours, some days there are no cases at all. On the other hand, flu season is starting to heat up, with numbers expected to rise in the next few weeks.
“I think we’re probably halfway or two-thirds to the peak right now,” said Dr. Hysmith.
One of the biggest things doctors have their eyes set on now is the potential impact earlier cases could have on a second wave of flu cases later on.
“There’s still a little bit of a question mark about what we’re going to see after the first of the year because that’s usually when we see influenza is after the first of the year, so we may see another little blip of influenza B or something like that after the first of the year,” said Dr. Hysmith.
However, this may not be a permanent shift in when flu season begins, with cases expected to happen when they’re supposed to in the years to come.
“Eventually, I think this will all come back to an equilibrium, we’ll start to see RSV when we’re supposed to see RSV, we’ll see flu when we’re supposed to see flu, I just think it will take a few years to settle back out," Dr. Hysmith said.
To help prevent the spread of the flu, doctors recommend getting vaccinated, staying home if you don’t feel well, and potentially wearing a mask or social distancing.