Tennessee hospitals overwhelmed by flu cases

Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 5:29 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - When the cold weather comes, so does the flu. Tennessee is one of the hardest hit states in the country right now for the flu as flu season hits harder and earlier this year. Now, local hospitals said they are having to make adjustments to deal with the influx of flu patients.

One Nashville woman said she feels awful and worse than the time she had COVID. She said she tested herself every day this week for COVID, and all were negative. Now, she is going to get tested for the flu.

“I was in bed for two full days,” Barbara Nosal said. “I mean, I did not do anything.”

Nosal is battling a runny nose, sore throat and cough.

“It is to the point of straining my chest and upper ab muscles,” Nosal said. “It was so sore from coughing so intensely.”

Nosal is one of thousands of people in Middle Tennessee with flu-like symptoms. The most recent week of state data shows nearly 5% of patients seen in Davidson County have flu-like illness. That number is close to 6% in the Mid-Cumberland Region, which is made up of counties surrounding Davidson. Statewide, our numbers are well above national cases.

Dr. Todd Rice at Vanderbilt University Medical Center said a couple weeks ago, 10 people were hospitalized with the flu there. Now, that number is in the 30s.

“It always pushes something out where we have to occupy 30 beds for the flu,” Rice said.

Now, elective procedures are getting delayed. They are also turning away patient transfers from other hospitals. Rice said that 30-figure is similar to what they have seen in pre-pandemic years during the peak of flu season. However, he doesn’t think we have hit our peak yet.

“We are preparing for four to five times that many patients in the hospital,” Rice said. “It results in redeploying staff, so we have more people in the hospital to take care of the hospitalized patients.”

Nosal is just trying to get better.

“Trying to get my sleep and taking things to help with the symptoms,” Nosal said.

While we are seeing 5-6% of patients with flu-like symptoms in Middle Tennessee, it is really the Memphis and Shelby County area driving statewide numbers up. There, 18% of patients seen have flu-like symptoms.