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Rare condition in children may have links to COVID-19

Posted at 9:54 PM, Jun 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-01 01:57:18-04

PHOENIX — Suspected cases of a rare inflammatory condition in children, potentially linked to COVID-19, have shown up in Arizona hospitals, according to the state's largest health system.

According to Banner Health, "a few" cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C) have surfaced at hospitals in Phoenix and Tucson, although they declined to specify how many cases, citing privacy concerns.

"Certainly we have seen a couple of patients with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children," said Dr. Jose Gutierrez, Medical Director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Cardon Children's Medical Center.

MIS-C is not yet fully understood, but is potentially linked to COVID-19. The thinking is perhaps it is an immune response in some kids that presents weeks after infection.

The CDC has developed guidelines for when parents should seek medical help.

"What really can be devastating is the severe inflammation of the heart," Dr. Gutierrez said.

He also noted this a very rare illness that can range in severity. "If we know that they have been exposed to COVID, you want to be looking for persistent fever, more than 24-to-48 hours," Dr. Gutierrez said. "Rash, abdominal pain, they develop swelling of hands and feet."

Dr. Gutierrez told ABC15 even in more severe cases, there are effective treatments.

While cases of the syndrome have popped up across the country, there is still limited information on its prevalence in Arizona. Despite Banner Health noting the cases they've seen, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported zero confirmed cases.

A public information officer for Maricopa County told ABC15 the county is aware of four reported cases, but three have been ruled out. One remains under investigation and awaiting review of the medical records.

A study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at 186 patients across the country, who had a median age of around eight years old.

"We started to see a few cases probably about six weeks ago," Dr. Gutierrez said. "Now that we're starting to see certainly an increase in the number of COVID cases, we may see a few more patients in the future."

Dr. Gutierrez stressed context for the condition. "It's very rare," he said.