A New Mexico hospital’s pediatric ward is nearly full due to an increase in RSV cases

New concerns for University of New Mexico hospital officials. The facility’s pediatric and general pediatric intensive care units are nearing capacity due to the increase in RSV cases in young children. This is a problem currently in the United States. “We are seeing more cases this year than last year and certainly before the pandemic,” said Dr. Martha Muller, division chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UNMH. At a Tuesday morning press conference, UNMH officials announced that the hospital had been around 100% capacity for the past 10 days. The respiratory virus is generally known to start during the fall season and peak in the middle of the winter season, usually January or February. However, that is not the case this time around. “We are also seeing other viruses that can have severe respiratory symptoms that require hospitalization,” said UNMH pediatric hospitalist Dr. Anna Duran. “Some of these viruses include RSV, COVID-19, influenza, and parainfluenza.” Fifty-eight beds are available for pediatric patients at the hospital, but with the increase in numbers, staff have had to put children to sleep in other areas to meet demand. “We had several nights where we had to keep more than 10 patients overnight in the pediatric emergency room until we could find other beds to house these patients,” said Dr Maribeth Thornton, Associate Chief Nursing Officer at UNMH. officials say most cases range from a newborn to a five-year-old child. And the symptoms of RSV can be severe, depending on the case. “Kids who work harder to breathe, they breathe faster,” Duran said. “They may not absorb fluids very well, which leads to dehydration.” Dozens of parents with children in hospital are currently receiving tons of support and resources, despite a stressful time for faculty and staff. “Most of our rooms have parent beds available, so parents can comfortably spend the night with their child in the room. And of course, all of our healthcare professionals are supportive of those children,” Thornton said. On Tuesday, only two bedside visitors are allowed at UNMH. Those selected must be masked and cannot be siblings, but staff hope to reconsider the protocol in the coming weeks. “I think it’s probably going to be a ‘tuning stay’ for us to see how this season goes,” Muller said. As we continue through the fall and winter months, hospital officials say they have plans in place should RSV cases continue to rise. “During this period, we were able to increase the need for additional rooms in our hospital,” Duran said. “We also partner with hospitals across the state to include Presbyterian and St. Christus.” Along with sensitizing different hospitals, UNMH is also developing a 32-step plan. “How many admissions do we have, how many discharges do we have, what do we expect from surgeries tomorrow? There’s a lot of thinking about that,” Thornton said. Until then, doctors say at-home prevention will be key. Efforts include cleaning hard surfaces, staying home when sick, and washing hands. “Either hand sanitizer, soap and water. Teach kids especially to keep their hands away from their face, so we don’t inoculate ourselves with virus,” Mueller said. While UNMH staff remain vigilant in the fight against respiratory disease. “We recognize that we need to care for all of the kids in New Mexico and not just those around here, so there’s a lot of movement and a lot of talk,” Duran said.

New concerns for University of New Mexico hospital officials.

The facility’s general pediatrics and pediatric intensive care units are nearing capacity due to increasing cases of RSV in young children.

This is a problem that is currently seen all over the United States.

“We are seeing more cases this year than last year and certainly before the pandemic,” said Dr. Martha Muller, division chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UNMH.

At a Tuesday morning press conference, UNMH officials announced that the hospital had reached approximately 100% capacity in the past 10 days.

The respiratory virus is generally known to start during the fall season and peak in the middle of the winter season, usually January or February.

However, that is not the case this time around.

“We are also seeing other viruses that can have severe respiratory symptoms that require hospitalization,” said UNMH pediatric hospitalist Dr. Anna Duran. “Some of these viruses include RSV, COVID-19, influenza, and parainfluenza.”

Fifty-eight beds are available for pediatric patients at the hospital, but with the increase in numbers staff have had to put children to sleep in other areas to keep up with demand.

“We had several nights where we had to keep more than 10 patients overnight in the pediatric emergency room until we could find other beds to house these patients,” said Dr Maribeth Thornton, Associate Chief Nursing Officer at UNMH.

Hospital officials say most cases range from a newborn to a five-year-old child.

And the symptoms of RSV can be severe, depending on the case.

“Kids who work harder to breathe, they breathe faster,” Duran said. “They may not absorb fluids very well, leading to dehydration.”

Dozens of parents with children in hospital are currently receiving tons of support and resources, despite a stressful time for faculty and staff.

“Most of our rooms have parent beds, so parents can comfortably spend the night with their child in the room. And of course, all of our healthcare professionals are supportive of those children,” Thornton said.

Since Tuesday, only two visitors are allowed at the UNMH bedside. Those selected must be masked and cannot be siblings, but staff hope to reconsider the protocol in the coming weeks.

“I think it’s probably going to be a ‘stay tuned’ thing for us to see how this season goes,” Muller said.

As we continue through the fall and winter months, hospital officials say they have plans in place should RSV cases continue to rise.

“During this period, we were able to increase the need for additional rooms in our hospital,” Duran said. “We also partner with hospitals across the state to include Presbyterian and St. Christus.”

Along with sensitizing different hospitals, UNMH is also developing a 32-step plan.

“How many admissions do we have, how many discharges do we have, what do we expect from surgeries tomorrow? There’s a lot of thinking about that,” Thornton said.

Until then, doctors say at-home prevention will be key.

Efforts include cleaning hard surfaces, staying home when sick, and washing hands.

“Either hand sanitizer, soap and water. Teach kids especially to keep their hands away from their face, so we don’t inoculate ourselves with virus,” Mueller said.

Meanwhile, UNMH staff remain vigilant in the fight against respiratory illnesses.

“We recognize that we need to take care of all the kids in New Mexico and not just the ones around, so there’s a lot of movement and a lot of talk,” Duran said.

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