CDC issues advisory for Kawasaki-like inflammatory disease associated with COVID-19

CDC issues advisory for Kawasaki-like inflammatory disease associated with COVID-19
Exterior of the CDC headquarters last fall. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images) (Jessica McGowan)

BOSTON — The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued an advisory for an inflammatory disease mainly affecting children that is associated with the novel coronavirus.

The condition, called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), is similar to Kawasaki disease, which causes inflammation of many tissues of the body, including on the hands, feet, mouth, lips, throat and even the whites of the eyes.

If not diagnosed or treated in its early stages, the disease can cause damage to the coronary arteries, damage which can either be temporary or affect the child in the long-term.

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“The tongue swells up and it’s really red, then has white spots," said Nancy O’Connor, a nurse from Plymouth, whose son, Jake, was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease when he was 10 years old. “It looked like a giant strawberry.”

According to the CDC, in late April clinicians in the United Kingdom began seeing an increase in cases of previously healthy children presenting severe inflammatory symptoms, similar to those of Kawasaki disease. The cases occurred in children who tested positive for COVID-19.

Patients showed a plethora of symptoms, ranging from fevers to inflammation on multiple organs, but respiratory symptoms weren’t present in all cases.

In the U.S., more cases started to pop up in early May, where, as of May 12, New York City health officials identified 102 patients with similar, Kawasaki-like symptoms, many of whom tested positive for the coronavirus.

It is currently unknown if multisystem inflammatory syndrome is specific to children or if it also occurs in adults.

The CDC says that, currently, “there is limited information currently available about risk factors, pathogenesis, clinical course, and treatment for MIS-C.” They are asking public health authorities “to better characterize this newly recognized condition in the pediatric population.”

Healthcare professionals caring for or who have treated patients under the age of 21 who meet the criteria for MIS-C should report suspected cases to their local, state, or territorial health department.

For additional information, please contact CDC’s 24-hour Emergency Operations Center at 770-488-7100. After hour phone numbers for health departments are available at the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologist website.

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