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Children are falling sick with a rare mystery inflammatory syndrome linked to Coronavirus

The new condition that's being linked to COVID-19 got an official name this week: pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome.

Children are falling sick with a rare mystery inflammatory syndrome linked to Coronavirus
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A mysterious inflammatory syndrome affecting children is now adding to pandemic-related concerns as health officials across the globe attempt to determine its suspected link to the novel coronavirus. Children and teens with the rare but potentially dangerous complication have been identified in at least seven states and the Washington, D.C., area as well as some parts of Europe. At least 85 cases of the ill-understood phenomenon have been reported across the US, of which 64 are in New York state, which has recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases overall, reports NBC News.


Although pediatricians say parents need not panic as the condition remains extremely rare, researchers urge parents to keep a lookout for symptoms in their children that might warrant a quick call to the doctor. "If [the child is] looking particularly ill, you should definitely call the doctor,"  Dr. Sean O'Leary, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children's Hospital Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and member of the infectious disease committee for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told NPR. As for the growing number of reported cases, doctors assure that the increase is likely the result of increased awareness of the problem rather than the number of such cases growing.


The new condition that's being linked to COVID-19 got an official name this week: pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome. Aside from the cases reported in New York, four patients have been identified at Boston Children's Hospital, an estimated five to 10 at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, three at Nemours Children's Health System in Delaware, three at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, three at Ochsner Medical Center in Louisiana, and one at Seattle Children's Hospital. Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., has reported two patients as of now but has 15 more children in intensive care with some kind of massive inflammatory response to the virus. It is as of now unclear whether these children have a pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome.



"All the kids have some sort of severe inflammation. I think it's all part of some spectrum of disease that's evolving as we learn more and more about this infection and its consequences," said Dr. Michael Bell, head of critical care medicine at Children's National Hospital. Pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome is currently believed to be the result of a child's immune system's going into overdrive after a COVID-19 infection. It is too soon to link all cases to the novel coronavirus as some patients have tested negative. "We're all still waiting for the smoking gun to be sure it is associated with COVID-19," said Dr. Audrey John, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.


The condition can resemble features of other inflammatory illnesses like the Kawasaki Disease and toxic shock-like syndrome. Cardiologist Jane Newburger, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and director of the Kawasaki Program at Boston Children's Hospital, stated that symptoms include persistent fever, extreme inflammation, and evidence of one or more organs not functioning properly. "It's still very rare, but there's been a wave of cases. Physicians and scientists are working hard to understanding the mechanisms at play, and why only some children are so severely affected," she said. Dr. John revealed that "the feature that's been most concerning is that they have problems with their heart function."


"The heart isn't squeezing as well as it should, so they need medications to help keep their blood pressure up," he said. Most cases of the new syndrome are treated with intravenous immunoglobulin, an antibody-rich plasma infusion that's been used to treat Kawasaki disease for decades. Experts believe those affected might need to be followed closely in the coming years for further heart problems. Although no deaths have been reported in the US as of now, according to a report published Wednesday in The Lancet, a 14-year-old boy in London passed away with relation to the condition.


"We want to reassure parents this appears to be uncommon. While Kawasaki disease can damage the heart or blood vessels, the heart problems usually go away in five or six weeks, and most children fully recover," Dr. Newburger stated in a news release on behalf of the American Heart Association. Dr. John added: "In general, families do not need to worry about this. I doubt that this is really new. I think it's just really newly recognized. I hope what comes of this is that, because we're seeing more cases, it will not take long before we will be better at recognizing this and treating it."


Disclaimer: Information about the pandemic is swiftly changing, and Upworthy is committed to providing the most recent and verified updates in our articles and reportage. However, considering the frequency in developments, some of the information/data in this article may have changed since the time of publication. Therefore, we encourage you to also regularly check online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization.

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