Coronavirus inflammatory syndrome is causing heart and kidney failure in some NYC kids

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Dr. Oxiris Barbot attends Mayor bill de Blasio briefing on first registered community transfer covid-19 patient in New York at City Hall.

Lev Radin | Pacific Press | Getty Images

Coronavirus inflammatory syndrome in children is causing heart and kidney failure, New York City’s top health official said Monday.

“This is something that is incredibly concerning,” Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said at a news briefing. Pediatricians and health officials have seen “laboratory signs of inflammation and a single or multi-organ indication of failure. Meaning that your kidneys are not working, they’re going into shock, your heart is giving out.”

Early in the outbreak, researchers and infectious disease experts said the virus appeared to be sparing children while hitting the elderly and those with underlying health conditions particularly hard.

Since then, researchers have discovered that children do get it and can die from it, even without underlying conditions that tend to worsen symptoms. Most kids report mild respiratory symptoms, namely fever, dry cough and fatigue. However, some children can become seriously ill, developing an inflammatory syndrome similar to Kawasaki disease. 

Most of the kids that have developed the inflammatory syndrome are between 5 and 9-years old, Barbot said.

The inflammatory disease is similar to Kawasaki disease, an illness most common in young children and causes high fever and swelling in blood vessels. Children may also develop a rash and experience abdominal pain and vomiting.

However, Barbot said while this syndrome is Kawasaki-like, “it’s really beyond that. We’re calling it pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome.”

She said the term is a “descriptive diagnosis” and health officials are still “learning about the way in which Covid-19 is affecting children.”

Prevention and early diagnosis are the most important factors in treating it, according to Barbot.

She urged parents to get their children tested for Covid-19 antibodies if they otherwise test negative for the virus but have symptoms of Kawasaki disease, which includes a persistent and high fever, rash, sore throat and swollen hands or feet. Doctors are seeing the new inflammatory syndrome crop up after a child recovers from the coronavirus, she said. 

“If you find it early and you treat it early, the long term consequences for children are pretty negligible,” she said.

This is a developing story. Check back here for updates.

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