December 2, 2022

State issues public health order in response to a surge of pediatric respiratory cases

The state issued an emergency public health order Thursday in response to a surge of pediatric cases and hospitalizations of respiratory viruses.

The New Mexico Department of Health issued the public health emergency order Thursday, urging parents to visit hospital emergency rooms with sick children only if the child shows signs of severe illness, such as significant trouble breathing. New Mexico and a few other states are experiencing some of the highest rates of influenza in the U.S., according to the NMDOH.

The DOH said in a news release that the order is necessary as hospitals and emergency rooms are operating above their licensed capacity due to the surge in respiratory viruses. The surge is causing an unsustainable strain on health care providers, according to the release. New Mexico saw a significant increase in RSV cases during the months of October and November, in addition to an increase in cases associated with COVID-19, influenza, and other respiratory illnesses. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. is experiencing an elevated onset of respiratory disease. It is the culmination of several respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV, influenza and other respiratory viruses.

Evaluations show that the state is nearing hospital capacity which could send New Mexico into a crisis standard of care.

State health care experts encourage individuals to stay up to date on flu and COVID-19 vaccinations; stay home if sick; wash hands; keep common areas clean and disinfected and children should visit an urgent care center or a provider for medical evaluations unless they are showing significant respiratory distress.

The NMDOH states that RSV is a common respiratory virus that spreads through virus-containing respiratory droplets produced from coughing and sneezing. RSV is generally mild for many children. But, according to the CDC, young children can be susceptible to RSV, which can turn dangerous for some infants and toddlers. Children under the age of two are at increased risk of severe disease and hospitalization. Each year in the U.S., an estimated 58,000-80,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized due to RSV infection, according to the release.

Acting NMDOH Secretary Dr. David R. Scrase said through the release it’s “important to take steps to reduce the risk of respiratory viruses by practicing good health and hygiene habits.”