Dozens of Canadian children treated for inflammatory condition possibly linked to COVID-19

Click to play video: 'What is multisystem inflammatory syndrome?'
What is multisystem inflammatory syndrome?
WATCH: What is multisystem inflammatory syndrome? – May 19, 2020

Canadian doctors are seeing new cases of a rare inflammatory illness in kids believed to possibly be linked to COVID-19.

Clusters of what is called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), or pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS), have been reported at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children as well as CHU Sainte-Justine hospital in Montreal.

Symptoms of the condition are similar to Kawasaki disease, a rare blood vessel disorder that causes rashes and a prolonged fever.

The case definition for this syndrome continues to evolve, said a spokesperson for the Hospital for Sick Children, but the hospital has seen approximately 20 patients over the past three weeks with “unexplained fevers for three or more days and whose blood tests show high inflammatory markers.”

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“The relationship between these patients and COVID-19 is still unclear as all have tested negative for COVID-19 with a nasopharyngeal swab and very few had any confirmed contact with COVID-19 cases,” the spokesperson said.

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“The children we have seen have all responded well to our current therapies for severe inflammation.”

Dr. Marie-Paule Morin, a pediatric rheumatologist at CHU Sainte-Justine hospital in Montreal, said there’s been a slight increase in cases since early May. Morin said there are probably about 20 patients who fit the criteria of the inflammatory syndrome being treated at the hospital.

Morin said the exact definitions used by the Canadian Pediatric Society are “pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS)” and “Kawasaki disease temporally associated with COVID-19.”

Morin said it appears there is a connection between the condition and COVID-19, but experts still need to conduct more research. She said a Canadian study is currently underway.

“We still do not have the proof that it is related (to COVID-19) in terms of serology,” she added.

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Clusters of children falling ill have appeared in other parts of the world, including the U.K. and the U.S., causing some health experts to think the inflammatory condition is linked to COVID-19.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued an advisory about the syndrome on May 14, warning of symptoms including fever, abdominal pain without another explanation, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, red or cracked lips, bumpy tongue and swollen hands and feet.

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New York health officials are currently investigating cases of “pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome” reported in predominately school-aged children. The state says there have been 170 cases and three deaths reported so far.

New York doctors say the affected children show symptoms “similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock-like syndrome, possibly due to COVID-19.” Out of the kids with the inflammatory symptoms, 92 per cent tested positive for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, either through diagnostic or antibody testing.

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Kawasaki disease is an inflammatory condition characterized by a constellation of symptoms, Dr. Kevin Schwartz, an infectious disease physician at Unity Health Toronto, previously told Global News.

Symptoms of Kawasaki disease include prolonged fever, bloodshot eyes, rash, red bumps on the tongue, stomach pain and peeling skin on the hands and feet.

Health experts previously said children were likely less affected by the new coronavirus, as research found many kids did not exhibit symptoms the same way adults did.

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In late April, Britain’s Paediatric Intensive Care Society issued an alert to doctors noting there had been an increase in the number of children with “a multisystem inflammatory state requiring intensive care” across the country.

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The group said there was “growing concern” that either a COVID-19-related syndrome was emerging in children or that a different, unidentified disease might be responsible.

Only some of the children in Britain tested positive for the coronavirus, so scientists were unsure if these rare symptoms are caused by the virus or by something else.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

— With a file from the Associated Press 

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