What To Watch For: Symptoms of New Illness Related to COVID-19 Seen in Children

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

COVID-19 cases in children have been rare, but a recent increase in hospitalizations of young children has experts rethinking how the virus affects the very young. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday it would alert doctors to look for the symptoms of a rare, but dangerous inflammatory syndrome, that has been responsible for the deaths of three children in New York.

“We lost three children – a 5-year-old boy, 7-year-old boy and 18-year-old girl,” Cuomo said Tuesday.

Northjersey.com reported at least 13 children have been hospitalized with the condition in New Jersey.

On Tuesday, health officials in New York were investigating 100 cases statewide.

Gov. Cuomo shared information about the condition during his daily address Tuesday.

Similar cases are being reported across the United States and Europe.

The new condition is being referred to as Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome. In addition to the persistent fever, the symptoms include extreme inflammation and “evidence of one or more organs that are not functioning properly. There are similarities between this illness and Kawasaki disease and Kawasaki Disease Shock Syndrome, where a person with Kawasaki disease then develops symptoms of shock.

According to the CDC, Kawasaki disease, sometimes referred to as Kawasaki syndrome, primarily affects children younger than 5, though it can affect older children as well. The disease was discovered in Japan in 1967 and was first case outside of Japan was found in Hawaii in 1976. Symptoms of the disease include “fever, rash, swelling of the hands and feet, irritation and redness of the whites of the eyes, swollen lymph glands in the neck, and irritation and inflammation of the mouth, lips, and throat.” Kawasaki disease can lead to acquired heart disease, including coronary artery dilations and aneurysms, which are characterized by an enlargement of a coronary artery which can lead to blood clots and a deprivation of blood to the heart.

Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome differs from Kawasaki disease in that the lab results often show a greater degree of cardiac inflammation. Some of the children are suffering from low blood pressure and high fever, and in some cases, coronary artery aneurysms. However, other children show symptoms closer to toxic shock syndrome, with symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea, a rash, and the redness of eyes, mouth, and throat.

In most of the cases of Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome, the children either have a current COVID-19 infection or antibodies to the virus. The presence of antibodies could mean the child had been infected with COVID-19 and has since recovered. The new illness seems to appear days to weeks after the initial COVID-19 illness, which doctors believe indicates it is part of the immune system’s response to the coronavirus.

Because Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome are both rare conditions, the uptick was alarming to doctors. Though it is not exactly clear how the new syndrome is related to COVID-19, the number of children who show evidence of currently or previously having exposure to the virus does indicate a correlation. Additionally, most of the cases of the new syndrome are being reported in New York and the United Kingdom, areas where the number of COVID-19 cases is particularly high.

Parents should continue to look for the symptoms of COVID-19 in their children, which include cold-like symptoms, fever, runny nose, cough, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea, and should contact their doctor if they are concerned their child has contracted COVID-19. In addition, if a child develops a rash, redness of the eyes, mouth, or throat, abdominal pain, or inflammation, medical attention should be sought.

Information regarding symptoms provided by NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo

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