At least 285 American children have developed a serious inflammatory condition related to the coronavirus, and while most have recovered, the likelihood of long-term or permanent damage is unknown, two new studies suggest.
The papers, published online Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine, provide the most complete report yet on the condition.
The condition is known as multisystemic inflammatory syndrome in children. It is considered unusual and deaths are rare; six children died under 285 in the new studies.
Including cases in Europe, where it was first reported, approximately 1,000 children have been affected worldwide, a magazine editorial said.
The case definition of the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes the current or recent COVID-19 infection or exposure to the virus; a fever of at least 100.4 for at least 24 hours; serious illness requiring hospitalization; inflammatory markers on blood tests and indications of problems affecting at least two organs, including the heart, kidneys, lungs, skin, or other nervous system.
Digestive complaints including nausea and diarrhea are common. Some children may have symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease, a rare childhood condition that can cause swelling and heart problems.
At least 35 states have had cases, and they appear to be popping up a few weeks after local COVID-19 activity spikes, said Dr. Adrienne Randolph of Boston Children’s Hospital. She is the principal investigator for a multistate study with CDC scientists. The second document involved 99 children in New York State, where the first American cases occurred.
Combined, the documents show 285 cases from March to mid-May, but Randolph said that even more American children were diagnosed in June.
Most had current or recent COVID-19 infections, but were previously healthy.
About 80% of the children in the multistate study had heart-related problems, including coronary aneurysms – a bulge in a coronary artery that can be fatal.
“They need to be followed up,” Randolph said. “This is a life-threatening concern for many patients.”
Most affected children had no other health condition, but about 30% were obese. The condition also appears to disproportionately affect Latino and black children and boys.
The mean age was 8 years. Researchers don’t know if adults can be affected.
Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner on @LindseyTanner.
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