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New cases of serious coronavirus-linked condition in children

Children’s of Alabama has reported several possible cases to ADPH
Updated: Jul. 1, 2020 at 5:21 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - As coronavirus cases continue to climb across the south, so are reports of a serious inflammatory condition in children that is caused by COVID-19.

It’s called multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children and while it is rare, doctors say new cases are being reported every day.

In the U.S. there almost 300 confirmed cases in 35 states, and new reports out today (July 1st) show 12 new cases in Florida.

The Alabama Department of Health has not confirmed any cases in Alabama, but doctors at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham have reported several possible cases to the state for review.

“We’ve had cases that we believe meet the definition at Children’s and those cases are being explored further by the state health department,” says Dr. David Kimberlain, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Children’s of Alabama. “They look in great detail at the medical history and clinical course before they ultimately score it as the MISC or not.”

The mysterious illness appears weeks after exposure to coronavirus, and doctors say it could cause a child’s immune system to overact and cause organs to inflame.

“These children generally start to be seen in a community about a month or so after the COVID virus hits the community… so we think right now that it’s probably a more of a post infectious inflammatory response,” says Dr. Kimberlain.

Studies show the average age for the children diagnosed is 8 years old, and they either still test positive for the coronavirus, or for the antibodies.

Doctors say there is still a lot they don’t know about the inflammatory condition, including the potential for long term or permanent damage to a child’s body.

The first case was reported in England back on April 27th, and now there are over 1,000 reported cases worldwide.

“We have learned a ton about it since then but there is still an awful more that we don’t yet know,” says Dr. Kimberlain.

Some symptoms are prolonged fever, digestive problems like nausea or diarrhea, not thinking clearly or a lack of responsiveness.

“One thing parents should keep in mind is that they will know if their child is that sick. This is not subtle. These children when they come to the hospital will usually go up to the intensive care unit,” says Dr. Kimberlain. “A parent is going to be watching for these type of symptoms whether it’s June 2020 or June 2019.”

Despite the serious symptoms, most children have recovered and been released from the hospital relatively quickly.

“Many of these children, really turn around very quickly given how sick they are…. within a couple of days they are about ready to walk out the door, and that in and of itself is very confusing,” says Dr. Kimberlain. “It’s a good problem to have but illustrates how much we don’t know.”

A new study released this week from the New England Journal of Medicine reported of 285 cases of MISC, six children died. Doctors are still trying to determine why some children develop MISC and others don’t. So far the risk factors for coronavirus complications do not seem to apply.

“We see predisposing health factors and socioeconomic factors having an impact on adults with COVID disease and having worse outcomes, and some of those, obesity as an example, have also been seen in children with COVID disease – with the lung problems it causes. The Hyper inflammatory condition seems to not seem to have the same risk factors at least as we see it right now,” says Dr. Kimberlain,

Dr. Kimberlain says he expects to see more cases of the serious inflammatory condition, as cases of coronavirus continue to rise. He says it’s just one more reason why we all need to take precautions, and wear our masks.

“We all have to do our part to limit the spread of this virus, and what that means is 6 feet of distance between people, it means not being in large crowds, it means wearing a mask. It’s not that difficult to wear a mask, it does not infringe on your personal freedoms to wear a mask,” says Dr. Kimberlain. “If I am asymptomatic right now, if I am infected with this virus and don’t know it and I go out into the world not wearing a mask I am putting everyone else at risk. The least I can do for my fellow man, my fellow woman and child out there, is to mask myself so I can protect them, hope they do the same in return.”

He says he understands that people are growing weary of the rules and restrictions, but says now is not the time to back down.

“We need to be aware of this virus. I know that people want to be done with this virus, but the virus isn’t done with us yet and it won’t be for some time. This is the world we live in and we need to be grown up about it and we need to do what we have to do to try to protect not only ourselves and our children and our parents and our grandparents but our neighbors and our community,” says Dr. Kimberlain.

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