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Four children with rare illness linked to COVID-19 treated at Riley

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Posted at 12:00 PM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 12:00:31-04

INDIANAPOLIS — At least four children with a rare inflammatory illness that's been linked to COVID-19 have been treated at Riley Hospital for Children, according to the hospital.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrom or MIS-C is a condition in which different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs. The cause is unknown, but there appears to be a link to COVID-19 because all children who have been found to have it either have or have recently had COVID-19.

“The whole medical community has been watching closely to see the medical effects of COVID-19 in kids. Thankfully for the most part, most kids seem to have mild infections,” Dr. James Wood, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Riley said. “However, about a month ago, there started to be cases of this inflammatory syndrome popping up in our country and around the world. Kids were coming in with a disease that seemed similar to Kawasaki disease (a condition that causes inflammation in the walls of blood vessels in the body).

“We know Kawasaki disease; it’s been around for a long time. Nobody knows exactly what triggers it, but it seems to affect kids who have some type of predisposing genetic condition for this inflammatory syndrome. It usually occurs in kids under 10 who develop a robust inflammatory response – fever for five or more days, rash over much of the body, redness in the eyes, swollen lymph nodes, swollen hands and feet, cracked and swollen lips – those are typical Kawasaki symptoms,” Dr. Wood said.

He says the challenge is distinguishing the new syndrome from Kawasaki disease, which they see several cases of each year.

“The hard part of Kawasaki is that it can look like a lot of different things and it can have some abdominal pain symptoms, but certainly with this new syndrome, abdominal pain is one of the major complaints, so that may be a distinguishing feature.”

While most children will recover from the mystery illness, the long-term impact is still unknown.

“Most people think it is likely related to COVID, mainly because kids who’ve been reported as coming down with it have either had exposure to someone with COVID or have tested positive for an antibody. So most kids with this do have that link, but at this point we don’t have any definitive tests to say that this is 100 percent related to COVID," Dr. Wood said.

Dr. Wood says parents should watch out for the following symptoms:

  • prolonged fever
  • rash
  • red eyes
  • unusual behavior

The CDC recommends parents seek emergency care for their child if they have the following symptoms:

  • trouble breathing
  • pain or pressure in the chest
  • appear confused
  • having trouble staying awake
  • bluish lips
  • severe abdominal pain

“We want parents to be educated on those symptoms and to get in contact with their doctor. I know right now can be a scary time to be going into the doctor’s office, but we do want people to know that talking to their doctor and not being scared to seek medical attention is appropriate. The most important thing I want to stress is we want parents to know what to look out for but not to panic. It is still very rare.”