Pediatric ‘mystery illness’ no reason to panic, says Children’s Hospital Colorado

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COLORADO SPRINGS — Doctors are being told to look out for a troubling new syndrome in children that may be associated with COVID-19.

Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory about multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children. It’s been seen in kids across Europe and in at least 18 states, plus Washington D.C.

Like the coronavirus, pediatric multi-system inflammatory Syndrome is still a bit of a mystery.

“This is a recently described syndrome that people started noticing in the past few months and are now just really starting to describe a little bit more fully,” said Dr. Sara Saporta-Keating, a Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Springs.

Saporta-Keating said even its name is still evolving.

“Some people are adding on the ‘associated with COVID-19,'” she said.

On Friday, the CDC officially named it Multisystem-Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) Associated with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

So far there have been no confirmed cases in Colorado, but in its advisory, the CDC warned that as of May 12, there were more than 100 suspected cases in the state of New York.

“It’s really hard to estimate the number of patients who have it,” said Saporta-Keating. “What we’re trying to do right now is come up with a really good definition for what that means and what this title means, so we can look back at all the records of patients who have already come through the medical system to make sure we are actually counting all of the people who need to be counted.”

Symptoms of the syndrome include prolonged fever, severe abdominal pain, vomiting, rash, and others.

“They present pretty sick actually, and most of them, or many of them, are requiring some blood pressure support, so this is something people can kind of refer to as shock,” said Saporta-Keating.

The symptoms are similar to a rare syndrome called Kawasaki’s Disease, but Saporta-Keating said with this new syndrome the symptoms are usually more severe.

“There’s quite a great deal of overlap between Kawasaki’s Disease or Kawasaki’s Syndrome and this new inflammatory syndrome,” she said. “A lot of the overlap includes the fever, rash, some swelling of extremities, red eyes, but normally Kawasaki’s Disease, while we can see some severe presentations that occasionally require blood pressure support, it’s not typical, and that’s the more typical presentation of this new syndrome.”

Saporta-Keating said Multisystem-Inflammatory Syndrome in Children Associated with COVID-19 causes inflammation in the body, which can impact the organs and can require treatment in the intensive care unit.

Cases first appeared back in April in the United Kingdom. Doctors reported they were in kids who were previously healthy. However, most did test positive for current or recent infection of COVID-19.

“We are still trying to investigate whether there’s a direct link between the two, because there are some patients who have not tested positive for COVID-19,” said Saporta-Keating.

Despite all the attention the “mystery illness” has been getting, Saporta-Keating said parents should not panic.

“I think the biggest thing to remember is that the majority of kids who are diagnosed with COVID-19 do have mild or actually no symptoms,” she said.

She added that the syndrome is still very rare, and local doctors are ready to treat it.

“Pediatrician offices and hospitals are really well equipped and really safe to go to, so if you actually have concerns about your child, you can always call your pediatrician, and again, hospitals are quite safe to go to if symptoms escalate,” said Saporta-Keating.

Saporta-Keating said there’s no way to know if your child may be at a higher risk than others for the syndrome, so the best thing to do is observe social distancing guidelines and set good hygiene examples for your kids. She also said they should continue getting their regular checkups and be sure to keep them up to date on their immunizations.

“It’s just of huge importance,” she said.

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