More hospitals reporting rare syndrome in kids, possibly linked to COVID-19

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Local pediatricians continue to report seeing a rare condition in children which could be linked to COVID-19 infections.

If it's not caught quickly, it can cause dangerous inflammation.

First reported in Europe, now dozens of cases of pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome reported in the US.

New York is now reporting 73 children with the syndrome, including a 5-year-old who died Thursday.

Some kids have active COVID-19 infections, others have past infections.

And for some, like Sara Garcia's son Nolan, it comes seemingly out of the blue.

"We did all the social distancing, not go on play dates, we didn't go anywhere I just don't know," says Garcia.

Her 6 year old son is in intensive care in Illinois.

Locally, doctors at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, and Nemours DuPont Hospital have all treated several kids with the syndrome recently.

St. Christopher's had cases in young children, while Nemours has had 3 cases, in teens between 13 and 17 years of age.

It's similar to Kawasaki disease which has been linked to other viral infections.

"High fever, often rash, redness to eyes - conjunctivitis - and often, red cracked lips," says Dr. Audrey John, chief of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital.

"Fevers of 102, 103, 104," aren't unusual, says Dr. John. And they may run 5 days or more.,

She also notes that children with Kawasaki disease are very fussy, irritable, and crying often.

"The rash can be truly anything. The initial reports of Kawasaki were everything from diaper rash in toddlers to full-blown measles-looking rash," she says.

"There's no specific rash characteristic of Kawasaki," she notes.

"Another characteristic is something called 'strawberry tongue,' which looks exactly like you might expect, where your tongue looks like a strawberry," she says.

If Kawasaki isn't identified quickly, it can cause inflammation to blood vessels and potentially heart damage.

Fortunately, given within 10 days of fever, treatment works.

"The syndrome is very responsive to a medical treatment called IVIG (intravenous immunoglobulin), and often when you give that medication all the symptoms just melt away," says Dr. John.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed the Department of Health to work with the CDC to develop a case definition for this illness to determine whether the remaining cases under investigation are definitively associated with the syndrome.
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