NC officials monitoring COVID-19-linked illness that strikes children

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina health officials are monitoring a syndrome believed to be related to COVID-19 that’s affected nearly 100 children across the country.

The illness is called Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome. The North Carolina department of health says there are no confirmed cases in North Carolina right now.

These days, Virginia Musselman’s two children play mostly with each other.

“We go outside to let them get their energy out, going to fields we find with nobody else around,” said the Raleigh mom.

The family doesn’t want to take a chance of catching COVID-19.

“Initially I heard what everyone else heard, that it wasn’t going to be a big deal for kids,” explained Musselman, adding, “Recently I’ve been hearing alarming reports, mainly from New York, that some kids have been affected, so it’s made me a little more nervous.”

Dr. Kaveh Ardalan, a pediatric rheumatologist at Duke, explained the syndrome.

“It’s thought to be related to a COVID-19 infection, either presently or a history of recent COVID-19 infection,” he said.  

He added that the syndrome has some symptoms similar to known diseases including Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome. 

 “Some of the most prominent symptoms seem to be very intense inflammation of the heart that can cause heart failure-like symptoms or coronary artery aneurysm,” he explained.  

He said other symptoms can include severe abdominal pain or gastrointestinal symptoms including severe diarrhea, rash, and red eyes. 

 “These are not subtle symptoms. The kids to develop this hyper-inflammatory syndrome are very sick and any parent will notice that their kid is breaking out in very unusual rashes or their child is developing chest pain and shortness of breath or severe abdominal pain,” Ardalan said. “If you are noticing things like that, you would, of course, be reaching out to your physician anyway and this is the right thing to do.”

New York State officials now report more than 90 cases of the inflammatory condition. They say at least three children there have died of the syndrome, and they are investigating two other deaths to see if they are linked. 

 The New York State Health Department put out a warning for other states.

“It may be possible, and may even be probable, that this is a situation that exists in other states and we want to make sure that they’re aware of it,” said New York governor Andrew Cuomo during a news conference.

Although the condition sounds scary, Ardalan doesn’t want parents to panic. 

 “Most kids who are otherwise healthy, even if they catch COVID-19, on average, are usually going to do well,” he said. “This system inflammatory disorder that’s being described is still very, very rare – at least less than 1% of kids with COVID-19 infection.”

“Putting it in perspective like that really helps,” said Musselman.

Her family will continue to take precautions, which is what Ardalan recommends for parents.

“Just continue following the best public health guidelines, wearing masks, trying to avoid going to crowded places even as we start slowly re-opening the state,” he suggested.

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