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Symptoms vary widely, as does their severity. Many of these affected children were admitted to the intensive care unit and given life support. Some have reportedly suffered heart damage and other organ failure. The disease control and prevention centers have confirmed that at least three children have died, but doctors speculate that there are likely to be more. Because the clinical symptoms better reflect Kawasaki disease and Toxic Shock syndrome than the COVID-19 symptoms that doctors expected, the medical community still doesn’t know much about this newly observed disease.
This raises some difficult questions. What is the name of the disease and how does it affect children? How deadly is it? How will it be treated and will it delay the reopening of schools? This story is based on information available from sources such as the CDC and the World Health Organization, and will continue to be updated as new details become known. It is not meant to be medical advice.
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What is the name of the disease and how is it related to the coronavirus?
The CDC and WHO have referred to this condition as “multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children” (PDF) or MIS-C. It is also referred to as both “pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome” and “pediatric hyperinflammatory syndrome”.
In the early stages of the pandemic, doctors found that fewer children than adults appeared to have enough COVID-19 symptoms to require hospitalization. A number of studies soon supported this suspicion. They showed how some children got sick, but far less often than adults. And it seemed that children could definitely spread the disease, but adults spread it faster. Word has gotten around that children were relatively safe from the worst effects of the virus, and parents were relieved.
Over time, however, clusters of unusually worse pediatric cases appeared. Most of these children tested positive, if not for coronavirus itself, for antibodies that indicated they had been infected earlier. But these children did not come to the hospital with typical COVID-19 complaints. According to reports, these children, although they had fewer breathing problems than expected, were actually much ill than many adult patients. They were among the first pediatric patients to be identified with this new syndrome (PDF).
The reason why experts believe that the disease that affects these children is related to the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease that causes it, is how many of them have tested positive for it. It is true that tests for some of the children with these symptoms were negative, but doctors pointed to concerns about the accuracy of some COVID-19 tests as a possible explanation for these exceptions.
Since many of these patients tested positive for antibodies – meaning that they may have been infected with the coronavirus a few weeks earlier – doctors began to suspect that what was happening was not due to the virus itself, but to a kind of reaction The body had an infection that had otherwise subsided.
What happened to children who are believed to have COVID-19?
The symptoms reported by patients and doctors vary. Doctors have observed persistent fever, red eyes and rash, low blood pressure, inflammation, pale and sometimes blue lips and skin, difficulty breathing, and lethargy.
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The most severe reports describe blood clots, chest pain, increased heart rate, and organ failure, including, in extreme cases, cardiac arrest. Children with MIS-C do not always complain of breathing problems, as doctors expect from COVID-19 patients. Aside from these and a few other symptoms, doctors admit that little is known about this disease. Everything they say is certain that it requires immediate medical attention.
What are Kawasaki disease and toxic shock? How are they related to MIS-C?
Kawasaki disease is an inflammatory disease of unknown cause that mainly affects children up to 5 years of age. Toxic shock syndrome is a complication that results from a bacterial infection and also causes inflammation. It’s more deadly than Kawasaki disease, but both diseases have a number of symptoms associated with MIS-C, including fever, red eyes, rash, and body aches. However, MIS-C is considered different.
This is how survivors felt
Knowledge of multi-system inflammatory syndrome is still limited, but some children who have recovered have spoken to the media about their experiences.
A teenager who spoke to the New York Times described the feeling of “as if someone had injected you with direct fire” during his stay in hospital for heart failure.
A 12-year-old girl told the Washington Post that she remembered having “strange” bluish lips and feeling “super tired” before doctors said she had cardiac arrest.
Doctors say another 12-year-old girl developed a blood clot that stopped her heart. “It felt like someone was stabbing my leg,” she said to NBC, who reported that it took 45 minutes of CPR to start again.
How does the coronavirus cause all of these symptoms?
No one knows exactly yet, but some doctors believe it is a delayed child’s immune system response that is abnormally and unusually aggressive. Doctors speculate that when you try to fight the virus, your immune system overreacts and damages normal, healthy cells like those in your organs. They suggest that this could also lead to the often observed dangerous drop in blood pressure.
Is MIS-C common? How many children have you had?
A recent survey counted over 200 cases of the disease, but with a total of more than 5 million confirmed coronavirus infections worldwide, experts say that the disease is still fairly rare and that the vast majority of patients have responded well to treatment so far . Most have fully recovered.
When was MIS-C and the connection to COVID-19 discovered?
In early April, a pre-publication article in Hospital Pediatrics magazine reported that an infant with both Kawasaki disease and COVID-19 was admitted and diagnosed. Since then, doctors have reported clusters of pediatric COVID-19 cases with Kawasaki disease (PDF) and related symptoms such as persistent fever, reddened eyes, rash, and joint and abdominal pain.
Are there any treatments?
No official treatments or known remedies for MIS-C or the coronavirus are known at this time (although this is the case)already in clinical studies). However, doctors have reported positive results with the treatments they have prescribed.
New research published in the American Heart Association’s Circulation magazine reports that children who suffer from heart failure as a result of this syndrome were then treated with a combination of steroids and antibodies derived from donated blood – a treatment that is called immunoglobulin therapy – mostly recovered. Cardiac function has reportedly been restored in most cases within a few days with this standard anti-inflammatory therapy.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified healthcare provider if you have any questions about an illness or health goals.