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Hospitals in Albuquerque are crowded with pediatric RSV infections

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK, we saw this coming. Many hospitals are overwhelmed, again. This time it's because of simultaneous surges of the flu, RSV and other infections. And this time, many of the patients are kids. Here's Nash Jones with our member station KUNM in Albuquerque.

NASH JONES, BYLINE: University of New Mexico Children's Hospital, the state's only dedicated pediatric hospital, filled up in mid-October. COVID, parainfluenza and enterovirus are all contributing to the surge. This week, UNM Children's reached 119% capacity, and now the pediatric units at the state's other two largest hospitals are full, too.

JOHN PEDERSON: At Presbyterian, we are also running at and above capacity on a daily basis.

JONES: Dr. John Pederson is medical director of children's care at New Mexico's 450-bed Presbyterian Hospital. He says restrictions on kids during the pandemic are contributing to the surge now.

PEDERSON: With COVID, we have vaccines. We have a lot of community immunity. We kind of have this immunity gap when it comes to other viruses such as RSV and influenza.

JONES: New Mexico's three biggest hospitals are collaborating by sharing resources and making transfers - lessons they learned from COVID, says Dr. Vesta Sandoval, chief medical officer at Lovelace Health System.

VESTA SANDOVAL: We have a sort of playbook of how we can try to work together as our systems become stressed with increasing numbers of patients.

JONES: It's unclear how long the surge will last. Hospital officials are expecting modeling from the state Health Department later this week.

SANDOVAL: I do believe that over the winter it's going to become more difficult.

JONES: New Mexico has one of the lowest hospital capacities in the nation, which led several hospitals to activate crisis standards of care during a COVID surge last fall. They are not at that point at this time. Hospital officials are urging parents and guardians to care for children at home when appropriate, and encouraging masking, handwashing and vaccinations for the viruses that have one. There's not yet a vaccine for RSV.

For NPR News, I'm Nash Jones in Albuquerque. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nash Jones