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Medical experts warn of new, rare child illness possibly caused by COVID-19

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UPDATE: State officials say one child has died from the disease as of May 27. Read the full update here: https://www.wbrz.com/news/1-la-death-13-cases-of-illness-in-kids-possibly-linked-to-covid-19


BATON ROUGE - Medical experts are now on alert for a new syndrome found in children that may be caused by the coronavirus.

It’s called pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome. Doctors say it can cause severe inflammation of the blood vessels that could lead to organ complications, and in extremely rare cases, death.

“This is a very new topic that’s been talked about in pediatric health care,” said Dr. Shaun Kemmerly, chief medical officer of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital.

The first cases were diagnosed just a few weeks ago in Europe, she said.

“Part of these symptoms maybe looked like toxic shock syndrome. Part of the symptoms look like something we’re all familiar with in pediatrics called Kawasaki disease,” Kemmerly said.

Pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome inflames the body’s blood vessels and puts the immune system in overdrive. It’s being found in six-month-olds to teenagers. Doctors believe the syndrome could be triggered by COVID-19, further damaging an already-stressed immune system.

“The things that are consistent about it is that children will have a persistent fever. They’ll have signs of inflammation. And then either one or more organs will not be working right. So this is usually the lungs, the heart, the kidneys, maybe the GI tract like with vomiting and diarrhea or even neurological symptoms,” Kemmerly said.

In New York, the US coronavirus epicenter, more than 100 children have been affected. Three have died this week.

Smaller numbers of cases have been detected in just a few states outside New York, including Louisiana.

Louisiana Department of Health said fewer than 10 kids affected statewide. No deaths have been reported.

“I’m aware of three cases out of the New Orleans area. So, still, not very common. And we have not identified any children here at the Lake with these symptoms,” Kemmerly said.

Juliet Daly is one of those cases from New Orleans. The 12-year-old she told WWL-TV that the syndrome caused her heart to shut down, which almost killed her.

“About three seconds after I woke up, I got a sharp pain in my stomach and I found it very hard to move,” Daly said. She was able to recover and eventually returned home.

Kemmerly says that because it’s already rare for children to get serious cases of coronavirus, the inflammation syndrome it causes is also extremely rare. She says she wants parents to be aware of it, but not panicked.

“Yes, it can be quite scary. The medical community is certainly on alert to be able to identify these children. But again, I don’t want to cause anyone undue alarm. Trust your pediatricians if your child is sick. If your child has a fever, if your child is having vomiting, diarrhea, bad abdominal pain, call your pediatrician. If your child has an unusual rash,  call your pediatrician. Your doctors are well-versed in this and are ready to see you,” Kemmerly said.

The constant communication across the worldwide medical community has helped to identify this syndrome early, according to Kemmerly. She said doctors will continue to learn more about what exactly causes it in the coming weeks as they treat more children.


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