RSV death: Mum dies suddenly after virus complication – family left heartbroken

A 63-year-old North Shore woman with a “beautiful smile” has died after contracting RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).

The family spoke to the Herald anonymously, asking not to be named yet out of respect.

The mum, described by her loved ones as a community advocate with a beautiful smile, died at her Stanmore Bay home on Wednesday morning after being discharged from North Shore Hospital on Monday.

It is unclear if it was the highly contagious virus that killed her as she was battling other health conditions.

“We are still waiting for the details of the post-mortem,” her partner said.

A spokesman for the Coroner’s office said he could confirm the death had been referred to the coroner.

“Cause of death is undetermined, pending further testing,” he said.

The Herald is awaiting comment from the Ministry of Health and Waitemata District Health Board.

Sharp surge of RSV

Meanwhile, hospitals across the country have been postponing surgeries and creating extra bed space for children as they deal with a sharp surge of the highly contagious winter virus.

A Starship children’s hospital spokesperson confirmed 12 children were in the facility’s paediatric intensive care unit with RSV on Monday.

On Friday, 22 children were in intensive care or high dependency units with RSV across 11 of the country’s 20 district health boards.

Wellington Regional Hospital had 26 children in the wards with RSV and respiratory-type illnesses who did not need to be in intensive care, while Hutt Hospital had 13 last week.

Auckland District Health Board has not yet provided figures.

ESR (Institute of Environmental Science and Research) data shows weekly visits to our six main hospitals for RSV has more than doubled in the last week, from 204 to 538 presentations. Only 34 cases were recorded between April to September last year.

As the virus spreads many daycare centres and primary schools have been reporting large numbers of sick children, with some saying their classrooms are half empty.

DHBs are now doing everything they can to cater for the spike, including postponing surgeries, creating extra beds and restricting visitors.

Dr Sue Huang – a virologist who tracks flu-like illnesses – said since New Zealand opened our bubble to Australia there had been a sharp increase in the number of RSV hospital presentations.

“The week we opened the bubble we had one presentation of RSV and it’s been increasing ever since to last week we saw 204 presentations … it’s such a sharp exponential increase.”

Last week, she said usually children experienced episodes of RSV in their first two years of life but last year there was a cohort of young babies who were never exposed to the virus due to lockdown and high-level safety measures like social distancing and hand-washing.

“So not only are you getting those children who have delayed exposure of RSV but also the group of babies born after them being exposed,” Huang said.

What is RSV?

• Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract.

• It’s so common that most children have been infected with the virus by age 2, but it can also infect adults.

• Symptoms are usually mild and typically mimic a common cold but they cause a severe infection in babies – especially premature infants and elderly or those with weak immune systems.

Advice for self-management of colds

• Get plenty of rest.

• Drink lots of fluids such as water.

• Use a humidifier to increase air moisture, especially in your bedroom.

• Health advice also is available 24 hours a day by calling Healthline on 0800 611 116 with the service providing interpreters for non-English speakers.

• If you have Covid-like symptoms, please stay at home and get tested. See more information here.

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