New York study found new details about coronavirus-linked illness afflicting children
An inflammatory disease linked to COVID-19 is disproportionately hitting Black children and often is associated with cardiac dysfunction, a new study found.
The research that looked at 99 children in New York under age 21 with the disease also found the median hospital stay was six days, resulting in two deaths, according to the state Department of Health-led study.
The study was part of an ongoing investigation into the illness, which is a multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, which appears similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome.
Among the study findings:
- Of the 99 patients, 36 had a pre-existing condition, the most common being obesity.
- The peak in MIS-C cases followed the peak in the number of laboratory-confirmed pediatric Covid-19 cases by 31 days.
- Overall, 79 patients with MIS-C, or 80%, were admitted to an intensive care unit.
- Among 78 patients with data on race, 37% were white, 40% Black, 5% Asian, and 18% other race; among 85 patients with data on ethnicity, 36% were Hispanic.
The researchers suggested the racial and ethnic disparities may be connected to the well-documented elevated incidence of COVID-19 infection among Black and Hispanic communities.
The study was conducted by experts at the state Department of Health, the University at Albany School of Public Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It sought to improve diagnosis and treatment of the new and serious condition among children with COVID-19.
“This landmark study links COVID-19 and MIS-C and will help healthcare professionals throughout the country diagnose this condition in their patients,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement.
What are the symptoms of MIS-C
State health officials advised New Yorkers to seek immediate care if a child displayed MIS-C symptoms that included:
- Prolonged fever (more than five days)
- Difficulty feeding (infants) or is too sick to drink fluids
- Severe abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting
- Change in skin color - becoming pale, patchy and/or blue
- Trouble breathing or is breathing very quickly
- Racing heart or chest pain
- Decreased amount of frequency in urine
- Lethargy, irritability or confusion
The new study noted the inflammatory illness is likely being underreported because many children have mild or no symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus infection.
For example, only 1% of New Yorkers who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 were under 20 years old, state data show. New York has the most COVID-19 deaths in the nation, with nearly 25,000.
Yet early diagnosis of children with MIS-C is key to getting them the appropriate medical treatment, the study found, adding parents and pediatricians must continue to monitor for the illness to refer cases to specialists.
Further, researchers determined that Kawasaki-like symptoms were more common in younger children than in adolescents. They also concluded that further research could explore whether a similar COVID-19-related inflammatory syndrome exists among adults.
Of the 99 patients in the study of the inflammatory illness, 54% were male. A total of 31 patients (31%) were 0 to 5 years of age, 42 (42%) were 6 to 12 years of age, and 26 (26%) were 13 to 20 years of age.
The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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