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Coronavirus - What you need to know

Medical community working to understand link between COVID-19 in kids, rare inflammatory syndrome

Dr. Sean O’Leary is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on infectious diseases.
Dr. Sean O’Leary is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on infectious diseases.

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Most kids who test positive for COVID-19 have no symptoms or very mild symptoms of the virus.

But a small number of children in the U.S. – including some from the Chicago area – as well as in other places around the world have developed a new and rare inflammatory condition that may be related to the novel coronavirus.

Symptoms of this new syndrome include high fever, rash, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and occasional respiratory symptoms. Two young children and a teenager in New York state have died from the syndrome, and there are a reported 85 children in New York with the Kawaski-like syndrome.

The new condition is called pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, and it may be associated with COVID-19, said Dr. Sean O’Leary, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases.

“Some of the children who have been reported to have this condition have tested positive for COVID-19 while others have not,” O’Leary said in a written statement. "Scientists around the world are working hard to understand this syndrome and how best to treat it.”

On Wednesday, The Lancet reported on a cluster of cases in the United Kingdom. A 14-year-old in the UK has also died from complications of the syndrome.

Some reports are likening pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome to two rare childhood conditions, Kawasaki syndrome and toxic shock syndrome, because of certain similarities among the syndromes.

“But at this time, it seems to be a distinct entity,” O’Leary wrote.

Kawasaki syndrome mostly affects children younger than 5, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.

Symptoms include fever, rash, swelling of the hands and feet, irritation and redness of the whites of the eyes, swollen lymph glands in the neck and inflammation of the mouth, lips, and throat, according to the CDC website.

Toxic shock syndrome is a life-threatening complication of staphylococcus aureus bacteria or group A streptococcus infections, according to the Mayo Clinic's website.

Symptoms of toxic shock syndrome include sudden high fever, low blood pressure, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, a sunburn-like rash (especially on the palms and soles), muscle aches, confusion, seizures, headaches and redness of the eyes, mouth and throat, according to the Mayo Clinic's website.

Pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome can manifest with severe symptoms.

“The condition has the features of fever and evidence from lab tests of significant inflammation in the body,” O’Leary said. "Some of these children are very ill with inflammation in their intestines, their heart or other organs.”

Overall, children are not considered to be at a high risk for COVID-19.

The American Academy of Pediatrics website reported 23,096 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in children from 47 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

Children made up 4.6% to 10% of total COVID-19 tests in four states reporting, according to AAP data.

In addition, children are rarely hospitalized with COVID-19. Children comprised 2.4% or less of total hospitalizations in 17 states and New York City, according to AAP data.

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