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NM’s pediatric virus surge could last through March

Victoria Model

Pediatric hospital units at New Mexico’s largest hospitals continue to fill due to an early surge of RSV and flu compounded by other viruses, including COVID. Health officials are not yet positive whether the early onset means the surge will also end sooner.

At a press conference Thursday, New Mexico Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said the health department would have predictions about how long this surge will last by the end of the year, “if we’re lucky.” However, Dr. Anna Duran, associate chief medical officer with University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital, seemed to have a bit of a better sense of what to expect.

“What that surge is going to look like is still in question because we are very early to be in an RSV surge right now,” she said. “Predictions could be as late as March. I’m hoping it’s much sooner than that.”

Duran said, with the prediction of the surge ending in March, its peak would come at the end of January after the impact from the upcoming holidays that her team is anticipating.

“And so the ask is please — if you are ill — please stay at home,” she urged those making holiday plans. “You know, there is another time to see your family.”

Duran said that UNM Children’s is now fluctuating between 125% and 130% capacity, up from 119% at the start of the week. She said maintaining a safe nurse-to-patient ratio remains challenging. Despite this, she assured the community that they — and other pediatric units across the state — continue to accept young patients.

“When you come to any of our hospitals, particularly UNM Children’s Hospital, you will get the care that you need here,” she said. “You may have longer wait times, but you will definitely get the care.”

She said “every community in New Mexico” is seeing this very large surge of pediatric patients and reiterated the importance of children and adults getting vaccinated for COVID and flu.

KUNM’s Jered Ebenreck contributed to this report.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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