Two Iowa kids show signs of rare COVID-19 illness

Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds updates the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak during a news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center, May 18, 2020, in Johnston, Iowa. (Photo by Charlie Neibergall/Pool, AP)

Two Iowa children may have a rare, inflammatory disease related to COVID-19, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The department received a report Friday afternoon that two eastern Iowa kids are showing symptoms of “multisystem inflammatory syndrome” — a rare and emerging disease that’s potentially fatal in children. Both of them are in stable condition, said Caitlin Pedati, the state’s public health director and epidemiologist on Monday.

Experts believe the virus may trigger some children’s immune systems to overreact, resulting in widespread inflammation.

Children with the syndrome may have a persistent fever and rashes on their skin, while more severe cases can lead to organ failure. At least three deaths have been reported in New York, according to a report from the University of Michigan.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned medical professionals on May 14 that it confirmed a link between kids who had COVID-19 and the syndrome, including those who were asymptomatic with the virus.

Iowa medical providers are required to report cases to the Department of Public Health to help officials learn more about it, Pedati said. Evaluations for the syndrome can include blood testing, a chest radiograph and echocardiography, according to the CDC.

“This is something we’re following very closely to learn more about,” Pedati said.

The syndrome resembles “Kawasaki” disease — another rare illness reported in children younger than 5 that causes inflammation in blood vessels, Pedati said.

Children are still the least likely to suffer from severe COVID-19 symptoms, according to the CDC. The largest clinical study conducted on children so far came from China. Reports showed kids of all ages are at risk for COVID-19, but complications are less severe than in adults. Out of about 2,000 kids, 90% of them with COVID-19 had mild to moderate symptoms and less than 1% suffered critical conditions like organ dysfunction or respiratory failure.

Kids and teens younger than 18 make up less than 3% of the state’s positive cases, according to the state.

For now, families should continue to wash their hands, practice social distancing and wear face coverings in public while more information is gathered, Pedati said.

“It’s important to stay up to date with your routine care, including vaccines,” Pedati said.

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