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Can Children Get the Coronavirus? What we know about the Kawasaki-like illness associated with COVID-19

  A boy is wearing a handmade mask to reduce transmission of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

A boy is wearing a handmade mask to transfer COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Stephen Shankland / CNET

Visit the WHO website for the latest news and information on the coronavirus pandemic.

Initially, the belief that COVID-19 does not always have as serious consequences for children as adults was a welcome relief. Older adults and those with compromised immune systems were at higher risk, but in general, children did not appear to be as affected or sick as they were. At least that was the first understanding clinicians had of the disease caused by the coronavirus . Now, doctors and scientists are rethinking that assumption, after identifying clusters of cases that indicate a potentially dangerous syndrome, which they say are related to COVID-19 in children, but with a different pathology and sometimes fatal outcome.

The symptoms vary greatly, as does their severity. Many of these affected children have been admitted to intensive care and have received life support. Some have reportedly suffered heart damage and other organ failure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed that at least three children have died, but doctors speculate there are likely to be more. With clinical symptoms that better reflect Kawasaki's disease and toxic shock syndrome than the COVID-19 symptoms that doctors are used to, there is still much that the medical community does not know 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 is it treated and will it delay the reopening of schools? This story is based on available information from sources such as the CDC and the World Health Organization and will be further updated as new details come to light. It is not intended to provide medical advice.

If you are looking for more information on coronavirus testing, you can find a test site near you ( you can also use Apple Maps ). Here is how to know if you qualify for a test and how to get a test kit at home .

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What is the name of the disease and how does it relate to the coronavirus?

The CDC and WHO have termed this condition "multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children" (PDF) or MIS-C. It is also called 'pediatric multisystem-inflammatory syndrome' and & # 39; pediatric hyperinflammatory syndrome & # 39; called.

In the early stages of the pandemic, doctors noted that fewer children than adults appeared to have severe enough COVID-19 symptoms to be hospitalized. A series of studies quickly supported those suspicions. They showed how some children got sick, but much less often than adults. And it seemed that children could certainly spread the disease, but adults spread it faster. Children were reported to be relatively safe from the worst effects of the virus and parents were breathing with relief.

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Playgrounds across the country have been closed in an effort to reduce transmission of the coronavirus.

Jessica Dolcourt / CNET

Over time, however, clusters of unusually severe pediatric cases began to emerge. Most of these children were testing positive, if not for the coronavirus itself, but for antibodies that suggested they were infected at an earlier point. But these children did not arrive at the hospital with typical COVID-19 complaints. Notably, the reports say that while they had fewer breathing problems than expected, these children were actually a lot sicker than many adult patients. They were among the first pediatric patients identified (PDF) with this new syndrome.

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The reason experts believe that the disease affecting these children is related to the new coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes, is because of the number of them who have tested positive for it. It is true that tests for some children with these symptoms were negative, but doctors pointed to concerns about the accuracy of some COVID-19 tests as a possible explanation for those exceptions.

Because many of these patients tested positive for antibodies – meaning they may have contracted the coronavirus several weeks earlier – doctors began to suspect that what was happening was not a direct result of the virus itself, but rather some sort of their reaction was exposed to an infection that would otherwise have disappeared.

What happens 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 a rash, as well as low blood pressure, inflammation, pale and sometimes blue lips and skin, difficulty breathing, and lethargy.

The most serious reports describe blood clots, chest pain, increased heart rate, and organ failure, including in extreme cases of cardiac arrest. Children with MIS-C do not always complain of breathing problems as doctors are used to from COVID-19 patients. But beyond these and a few other symptoms, doctors admit that little else 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 primarily affects children aged 5 years and younger. The Toxic Shock Syndrome is a complication that arises from a bacterial infection and also causes inflammation. It is more deadly than Kawasaki disease, but both conditions have a number of symptoms with MIS-C, including fever, red eyes, rash, and body aches. However, MIS-C is considered to be separate.

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This is what survivors say it felt.

Knowledge about multi-system inflammatory syndrome remains limited, but some recovered children have talked to the media about their experiences.

A teenage boy, speaking to the New York Times, described the feeling as "as if someone had put you on a fire" during his hospitalization for heart failure.

A 12-year-old girl told the Washington Post that she recalled having "weird" 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. & # 39; It felt like someone was stabbing my leg & # 39 ;, she told NBC, who reported that it took 45 minutes of CPR to get it going again.

How does coronavirus cause all of these symptoms?

So far, no one knows for sure, but some doctors believe it to be some sort of delayed immune system response from the child that is abnormal and unusually aggressive. Doctors speculate that as they try to fight the virus, their immune systems overreact and start to damage normal, healthy cells, such as those in their organs. They suggest this could also be what leads to the dangerous drop in blood pressure that is often seen.

Is MIS-C common? How many children have had it?

A recent study counted more than 200 cases of the disease, but with a total number of coronavirus infections of more than 5 million confirmed cases worldwide, experts say that this disease is still quite rare and that the vast majority of patients so far has responded well to treatment. Most have fully recovered.

When were MIS-C and the link to COVID-19 discovered?

In early April, a pre-publication article in the journal Hospital Pediatrics reported a baby admitted and diagnosed with both Kawasaki disease and COVID-19. Since then, doctors have reported clusters of COVID-19 cases in children showing Kawasaki disease (pdf) and related symptoms, such as persistent fever, red eyes, rash, and joint and abdominal pain.

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Are there any treatments?

There are currently no official courses of treatment or known treatments for MIS-C or the coronavirus (although there are several promising candidates for the coronavirus vaccine already in clinical trials). However, doctors have reported positive results with the treatments they have prescribed.

New research published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation reports that children suffering from heart failure due to this syndrome were subsequently treated with a combination of steroids and antibodies obtained from donated blood – a treatment called immunoglobulin therapy – – overwhelmingly restored. Cardiac function was reported to have recovered within a few days in most cases using this standard anti-inflammatory therapy.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health – or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care professional if you have questions about a medical condition or health goals.

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