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Children reportedly showing symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease due to COVID-19

Posted at 5:24 PM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-12 14:41:50-04

Doctors in Arizona are on the lookout for an inflammatory condition presenting in children in other states that is possibly linked to COVID-19.

Dozens of children have reportedly fallen ill, and three died in New York in connection with a condition described as "pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome."

The children reportedly have symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease, a condition that generally affects children under the age of five. Some of the children recently affected by the inflammatory condition are older than that. It's unclear how - and if - the cases are specifically linked to coronavirus, but some of the children have reportedly also tested positive for COVID-19 or had its antibodies.

"There actually have been adolescents and young adults," said Dr. Sean Elliott, an infectious disease specialist at TMC One in Tucson. "The age range quoted out of New York, as of last night, was three years up to 19 years of age."

Elliott said he is aware of what is developing in other cities.

"Physicians in this country are now aware of what to look for," he said.

Doctors and health officials ABC15 talked with on Monday said they have not yet seen reported cases here in Arizona. Health officials have reported some of the symptoms appearing to be similar to Kawasaki disease. Elliott told ABC15 one sign is a fever lasting more than five days and recommended you consult with your pediatrician if you're concerned.

"Fever, they'll typically have a rash, red eyes, red tongue," Elliott said. "The small blood vessels in the arteries become inflamed...if we don't diagnose it in time, that's when it starts to target or affect the arteries which supply the heart."

Doctors around the state say they are aware of the reports coming out of other cities.

"It's beneficial for us, not that kids are getting it, but that the medical community over in New York and Chicago, and other places that are reporting this are disseminating the information, the knowledge, very quickly," said Dr. Salil Pradhan, a pediatric hospitalist with Valleywise Health Medical Center.

Pradhan told ABC15 while the symptoms are similar to Kawasaki disease, the inflammatory condition affecting the kids has some differences.

"There is no cure at this point," he said. "Kawasaki disease has a treatment, whether that would be effective in this or not remains to be seen. No one to my knowledge has tried it yet, or certainly hasn't reported it."

While the situation develops across the country, experts say there's no need to panic.

"Concern level [is] low," Elliott said. "It's not non-existent, the risk, but the risk is still quite small."

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health sent ABC15 the following statement:

We are aware of the news articles about Kawasaki-like symptoms being reported in children in other states with positive COVID-19 test results. To date, there have been 324 Maricopa County COVID-19 cases in people aged 0-19. We have not received any reports of Kawasaki-like symptoms in those cases. Kawasaki is not currently a reportable disease to public health; but we are currently working with Arizona Department of Health Services to develop a Health Alert Notification to inform healthcare providers about this possible complication of COVID-19 in children and request that pediatricians report all Kawasaki-like illnesses to public health so we can track this in our community. Additionally, our medical director is reaching out directly to Phoenix Children's Hospital and Banner Cardon Children's Medical Center to request that suspected cases be reported to MCDPH.

To protect children and families against COVID-19 and any of its complications, Public Health encourages parents to make sure they and their children are taking steps to protect themselves from infection. These protective steps include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home as much as possible, but especially when you are sick.
  • Put distance between yourself and other people, at least 6 feet.
  • Avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Consider wearing a cloth face covering when in public places. People can spread COVID-19 before they show symptoms, or even if they show no symptoms at all. Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others.

All the steps to avoid exposure to COVID-19 are listed on our website: https://esd.maricopa.gov/5489/Protect-Yourself-and-Others#do. In addition, if a parent is sick, they should isolate as best they can away from the rest of the family to avoid spreading the illness to others. They should seek medical care if their symptoms don't improve or get worse. If they have a sick child with a fever that won't break with fever-reducing medications or has any difficulty breathing, they should seek medical care for that child. A medical professional can determine if a COVID-19 test is necessary.