Over the past month, children in nearly half of all U.S states, including New York, New Jersey, Kentucky, Connecticut, and Louisiana, have fallen sick with a new and rare illness.
It’s still too early for doctors and researchers to fully understand the connection between this disease and coronavirus. However, since most children hospitalized with the rare illness also test positive for the coronavirus or its antibodies, researchers believe the two are somehow correlated.
Symptoms of the Unknown Disease
As New York monitors more than 150 possible cases of this disease and New Jersey concentrates on at least 12, three children have already died. The World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are devoting more resources to understand the illness while also asking doctors to be on the watch for more cases.
Currently referred to by the CDC as “multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children,” or MIS-C, its symptoms include:
- Persistent fever
- Abdominal pain
- Fluctuating blood pressure
Doctors have drawn a parallel between MIS-C and Kawasaki disease, another rare inflammatory illness that affects children under the age of 5. However, according to Michael Portman, the director of pediatric cardiovascular research at Seattle Children’s Hospital, the symptoms of MIS-C are generally “much more severe” than what is seen in Kawasaki disease.
What Is Kawasaki Disease?
Kawasaki disease (KD) was first reported in Japan in 1967. The CDC reports that the incidence of KD in the continental United States is rare, ranging from about 9 to 20 children per 100,000 under 5 years of age. Of the 5,440 KD-related hospitalizations in the U.S in 2016, 3935 patients were children under 5 years of age.
The symptoms of Kawasaki disease include:
- Swelling of the hands and feet
- Irritation and redness of the whites of the eyes
- Swollen lymph glands in the neck
- Inflammation of the mouth, lips, and throat
Tips for Parents
Mike Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, is reassuring parents that MIS-C doesn’t represent a difference in the way COVID-19 causes disease in children, “or a different severity or a change in the way the virus is behaving.”
In fact, a study of 10 Italian children with symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease and MIS-C reported that all 10 children survived despite displaying serious side effects.
“Although this complication remains very rare, our study provides further evidence on how the virus may be affecting children,” study author Lucio Verdoni said in a statement. “Parents should follow local medical advice and seek medical attention immediately if their child is unwell. Most children will make a complete recovery if they receive appropriate hospital care.”
The CDC urges all parents who suspect their child could have symptoms of this mysterious syndrome to contact a health professional. It can be treated with IV immunoglobulin, steroids, and aspirin.