Flu season has begun, RSV is a worry and COVID-19 continues to be a concern. The New Mexico Department of Health recommends getting vaccinated for all three.

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, vaccines are recommended for adults 60 and over, pregnant women who will deliver in RSV season and infants born in RSV season, said Miranda Durham, the chief medical officer for the DOH. COVID-19 and flu vaccines are recommended for everyone older than 6 months.

RSV is a virus that pediatric providers have paid attention to for many years, but when it showed up earlier than usual last year alongside COVID and the flu, the respiratory illness was put in the spotlight.

“Last year, it came early and it was on the radar because we had RSV and flu and COVID all at the same time, and that made for a really tough winter with all the beds everywhere — kids, adults, all of them full,” Durham said.

This year, it is being spotlighted once more, which Durham believes is because there is a vaccine available for it.

“The other thing is that, it’s always also been an issue for older adults, but we probably didn’t recognize it specifically as RSV,” Durham said. “I think with COVID, there’s been a lot more testing for respiratory viruses. Like it used to be, you could get a flu test, and then everything else was like bacterial pneumonia or a virus, and we weren’t specific, and now there’s all these respiratory virus panels.”

With more testing, a vaccine available for RSV and more attention on respiratory viruses, Durham thinks it feels like RSV is more on the radar this year, but there have not been too many flu or RSV cases yet.

“In other southern states, it’s starting to tick up,” she said.

Most of New Mexico was looking at a low level of influenza-like illness in the first week of October — lower than the state’s baseline level. Influenza-like data includes multiple seasonal respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19 and {span}respiratory syncytial virus{/span}.

For the week of Oct. 1-7, influenza-like illness made up 3.3% of patient visits statewide, below the state’s baseline of 6%, according to a state Department of Health influenza and respiratory disease report for the 2023-2024 season. The southeast region of the state had the highest percentage of patient visits for influenza-like illness, or 4.2% of patient visits. The Albuquerque metro area, which includes Sandoval, Bernalillo, Torrance and Valencia counties, was next with 3.6% of patient visits that week.

There have been no pneumonia or influenza deaths reported in New Mexico for the 2023-2024 flu season, which is just starting. For the 2022-2023 season, there were 179 pneumonia deaths, 83 adult influenza deaths and two pediatric influenza deaths, according to the DOH report.

As of Oct. 16, New Mexico had 1,337 COVID-19 cases reported in the last seven days, according to the Department of Health’s monthly COVID report. The average daily COVID-19 case rate appears to be trending upward, with a spike in August after lower levels in the summer. Daily reported cases are highest in the 65 and older category, but still significantly lower than the number of cases in New Mexico in November and December. In the last 30 days, Bernalillo County had an average daily case rate of 8.7 per 100,000 people. San Juan County in the Four Corners had the highest average daily case rate in the state over the last 30 days, with 18.2 per 100,000 people.

There is more demand for pediatric COVID-19 vaccines than supply in New Mexico. The COVID-19 vaccine process has been privatized, and vaccines are not as readily available as they were in previous years, but the NMDOH has a hotline, 1-855-600-3453, available to help people make vaccine appointments and a map of vaccine locations at vaccinenm.org.

Along with vaccines, the agency recommends preventive measures such as wearing a mask in crowded settings, especially for those who are immunocompromised, regular handwashing, and staying home when sick to lower the risk of exposure to a respiratory illness.