6-year-old with RSV dies as hospitals see alarming rise in new virus cases

Officials say the boy died from complications from the respiratory virus.

November 4, 2022, 10:20 AM

Michigan health officials this week confirmed a 6-year-old has died after developing complications from RSV or respiratory syncytial virus.

The child is reportedly a young boy from the Detroit area.

Hospitals around the country have seen an alarming increase in RSV cases, especially in children, in recent weeks. The virus causes cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, coughing, fever and a lowered appetite, but infants and older adults (65 and older) can develop more serious cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We've seen about a 500% increase in positive tests in children that have been admitted for upper respiratory infections," Dr. Matthew Denenberg, chief of pediatrics at Corewell Health East in Michigan, told "Good Morning America."

The CDC notes that RSV-related deaths are, for the most part, uncommon.

"Very, very few children die from RSV, and the kids that get that sick, it's usually a child that has an underlying illness," Denenberg added.

In New York, the pediatric intensive care unit at Cohen Children's Medical Center has been operating over capacity with more cases than usual.

"We're giving a lot of support that often requires inhalation therapies -- sometimes steroids, sometimes breathing machines like ventilators until the virus itself works its way out," Dr. James Schneider, chief of pediatric critical care at Cohen Children's Medical Center, told "GMA."

Anita Ghiam's 3-year-old daughter Ella has been receiving treatment at Cohen Children's since Sunday for RSV and had to be placed on a ventilator.

Ghiam told "GMA" she's been trying to stay positive.

PHOTO: Anita Ghiam speaks to ABC News' Erielle Reshef about seeing her child in the hospital with RSV.
Anita Ghiam speaks to ABC News' Erielle Reshef about seeing her child in the hospital with RSV.
ABC News

"I'm trying to keep high spirits for her," Ghiam said. "Nobody wants to see their kid in this situation."

Currently, there is no approved vaccine or specific treatment for RSV in the U.S. In Europe, the European Commission this week approved a new monoclonal antibody injection, Beyfortus, that is intended to provide partial immunity for newborns and babies up to 1 year old. Although similar to a vaccine in that it provides a level of immunity to those who receive the shot, this injection directly provides the antibodies to the babies rather than ramping up their immune systems to create the antibodies themselves. In short, although it may fully prevent some RSV infections, the real aim of this antibody injection is to prevent severe RSV in babies which may lead to hospitalization.

The one-time shot is not available in the U.S. but drug companies Sanofi and AstraZeneca, which jointly make the preventative injection, hope it could be ready by next year. The injection would need to be approved by the CDC and Food and Drug Administration.