JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Respiratory Syncytial Virus, better known as RSV, is a respiratory infection that shares many similarities with the common cold, but it can be much more dangerous to children ages 5 and under.

Health experts and local pediatricians say the virus is spreading rapidly and early across the nation and the Tri-Cities region.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported 204 cases of RSV in Tennessee last week. Case numbers had been steadily rising since February, but cases spiked in mid-August, according to the CDC.

Dr. Justin Jones, a pediatrician with Ballad Health, told News Channel 11 that he has seen three or four cases each day for about a week. Jones said he believes the spike in RSV cases is linked to precautions taken as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Basically, we did take a little bit of a break over those two years,” Jones said. “So the immune systems may not have been as primed to the RSV as in the past.”

Dr. Joseph Ley, a pediatrician with Holston Medical Group, described a recent case of RSV in a preschool child.

“She does have some degree of asthma,” Ley said. “Hers is very mild, and so we will have to watch close.”

While the virus is most prevalent among young children, adults can also be affected as well.

“What a lot of people don’t know is it’s not just a childhood disease,” Jones said. “Adults can get it as well. So even though you think you just have a head cold, it is actually something you can spread to your child.”

Ley said one of the best ways to prevent the spread of RSV is to wash your hands.

“[Try] not to put hands to face,” Ley said.

Jones also advised sanitizing all items taken to and from daycare centers and to look into your daycare’s cleaning practices.

Parents worried about RSV should keep an eye out for symptoms like coughing, runny noses, wheezing, decreased appetite and fevers.