TRAVERSE CITY – Regional doctors report they have not seen local cases of a mysterious illness that might be related to COVID-19.
That does not mean there is no reason to be careful.
“This is a disease that can truly affect patients across the full spectrum,” said Dr. Christine Nefcy, chief medical officer for Munson Healthcare.
Michigan health officials said there were signs Michigan might have nearly three dozen children affected by the condition. The symptoms are similar to Kawasaki disease, a multi-inflammatory inflammatory disease that rarely occurs in children.
Lynn Sutfin, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said there were 33 possible reported cases all in the state.
No deaths were reported among the cases, he said in an email, although at least 28 patients were hospitalized. Five are unknown in the account, said Sutfin.
Detroit is where 18 cases were identified, he reported, with a single digit number in Wayne, Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair and Kent country.
Signs of the condition to look for include fever, rash, red eyes or red lips. Two young children and a teenager who was diagnosed with this disease had just died in the state of New York.
“This is a situation that we will watch closely here in Michigan. But it also truly illustrates that we are still learning more about COVID-19, and we must remain vigilant when we try to overcome it, “said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the country’s chief medical executive.
Medical officials in Michigan, New York and throughout Europe have seen this condition emerge. But not as far as northern Michigan.
Chandra Delorenzo, pediatrician doctor and chief of staff at McLaren Northern Michigan hospital in Petoskey, said the condition is not what medical officials normally consider Kawasaki disease or even toxic shock syndrome.
This new medical disorder appears as an inflammatory reaction after infection, which means it is caused by a trigger – with a possible correlation with COVID-19. It is the body’s own immune response that causes inflammatory disease – and not only in children, Delorenzo said.
“We don’t think it’s only children, it’s just that we have a name for it in children,” he said.
“This is a copycat because it also looks like the streptococcal toxic shock syndrome,” Delorenzo said.
New York has investigated more than 100 cases of the syndrome, which affects blood vessels and organs with symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock. Some children in the state died.
In New York City, which has reported more than 50 sick children with this syndrome, Mayor Bill de Blasio urges parents to call their pediatrician immediately if their children show symptoms including persistent fever, rashes, stomach ache, and throw up.
Children elsewhere in the US and in Europe have also been hospitalized with a condition known as pediatric multi-inflammatory syndrome.
The British Intensive Child Care Association issued a warning to doctors who noted an increase in the number of children with “multi-system inflammatory conditions requiring intensive care” across the country. The group said there was “concern” that COVID-19 syndrome that appeared in children or that different and unknown diseases might be responsible.
“We already know that a small number of children can become seriously ill with COVID-19 but this is very rare,” Dr. Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health. He said the syndrome was probably caused by an overreaction from the immune system and noted similar symptoms had been seen in some adults infected with the corona virus.
Only a few children tested positive for COVID-19, so scientists are not sure whether these rare symptoms are caused by a new coronavirus or something else.
Viner said that although doctors were considering other potential causes for this syndrome, including other viruses or new drugs, “the successful hypothesis is that it is related to COVID.”
Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida, noted a case in the United States involving a 6-month-old girl in California who was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease and later COVID-19. The report, from Stanford University, does not clarify whether the two diseases happened by chance or if COVID-19 could cause Kawasaki disease, said Rasmussen, who co-authored JAMA’s Pediatrics article recently about COVID-19 and children.
“We will need more information published in the peer-reviewed literature to better understand this relationship. However, Kawasaki disease is a relatively rare condition, so seeing these cases makes us worry that Kawasaki disease could be a rare complication of COVID-19, “he said. “We must remain vigilant when we see children with findings that are not typical for COVID-19.”
Officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating reports of this multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children.
Meanwhile, the best way to prevent this disease is to take seriously all the public health recommendations recommended for COVID-19, doctors Nefcy and Delorenzo say.
They say that means improving hygiene such as washing extra hands, avoiding those who are sick, keeping physically away from others when they come out and also wearing masks when in public spaces – even children.
Nefcy said there is a risk of choking with small children wearing masks that use straps, but other designs are available and parents tend to monitor their children when masked. In addition, children do not struggle to breathe through precisely sized face masks like adults, he said.
Delorenzo said that it is highly recommended for children to wear masks when in areas where physically away from others proves to be problematic. Pediatricians also say parents should not be afraid of the health care system, even during this ongoing pandemic because extra precautions are taken to prevent transmission of the disease.
“You don’t want to sit there. You will usually seek treatment for it, so do it right now,” Delorenzo said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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