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The severe post-coronavirus syndrome isn’t just affecting children

Published May 28th, 2020 10:08PM EDT
Coronavirus Syndrome
Image: JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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  • The severe coronavirus syndrome that has been found to affect children is even more dangerous than believed, as young adults can also experience the same symptoms.
  • Likened to Kawasaki disease, the post-COVID-19 illness is called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).
  • Hundreds of cases have been registered in the US alone, and MIS-C requires professional care.

It all started in late April, with UK doctors issuing a warning about a strange inflammatory syndrome in children who were infected with the novel coronavirus. The disease looked similar to Kawasaki disease and included symptoms such as multiple body parts becoming inflamed. Soon after that, doctors in American hospitals started noticing the syndrome. Hundreds of cases emerged worldwide in children who were exposed to COVID-19 or had the disease.

Doctors still can’t explain why this syndrome is becoming increasingly common, but now we have a name for the condition: multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C. Now, some physicians think they’ve found markers that can predict severe cases. Most kids do recover from MIS-C, but there have been a few fatalities. Moreover, it looks like the syndrome is now affecting young adults, a possibility that doctors have to prepare for.

The post-COVID-19 syndrome is more dangerous in teens and young adults, NYU Langone pediatric infectious diseases doctor Jennifer Lighter told The Washington Post. Younger patients have cases more similar to traditional Kawasaki disease, she said, but teens and young adults have a more “overwhelming” response that involves the heart and multiple organs. “The older ones have had a more severe course,” Lighter said.

Kawasaki disease expert Jane Burns told the paper that physicians might under-diagnosed the condition in young adults because of different factors. It’s a rare diagnosis for someone that age to begin with. Then, the anatomy of older patients makes it harder to look at the heart via ultrasound than in children.

The CDC already lists information about MIS-C on its website. Symptoms including fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rashes, bloodshot eyes, and tiredness can be associated with the syndrome, and parents are advised to contact their doctors and seek immediate help if these symptoms arise. Symptoms including trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, bluish lips or face, and severe abdominal pain require immediate emergency care.

Northwell Health pediatric critical care doctor James Schneider told The Post that MIS-C isn’t something that can be treated at home. Patients could require several drugs, including blood pressure meds, steroids, anticoagulants, immunoglobulin, and even ventilators. Some children went into cardiac arrest and had to be revived at Northwell, but none of the 44 diagnosed patients died.

Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center is treating a 25-year-old for the same condition. Several patients in their early 20s are hospitalized at NYU Langone in New York City, and one 20-year-old is being treated in San Diego. These patients are considered adults because they’re over 18. That’s a legal definition, however, and doesn’t have anything to do with the biology of the human body.

Doctors are trying to understand why adults would be prone to developing the syndrome, and they think genetics may play a role, as does COVID-19. The MIS-C patients coming in for treatment have antibodies for the virus, which suggests they have dealt with COVID-19 in the prior weeks. MIS-C might be a delayed immune response to the original infection.

So far, several hundred cases have been reported in 20 states, with New York City accounting for 147 MIS-C cases as of last Thursday. At least three children in New York have died, as has a 15-year-old girl in Maryland, per The Post.

MIS-C might be a rare disease, but as the world registers more COVID-19 case, there’s a higher chance for the syndrome to be detected in more hospitals. That’s why parents and doctors need to be aware of the clinical aspect of this post-COVID-19 illness and take immediate action when they suspect it.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.