New disease affecting children, possibly linked to COVID-19 has parents concerned

Pediatric expert discusses Kawasaki disease

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Everyone knows how lethal the coronavirus can be for the elderly, but parents across our community are worried about their children and a new disease possibly linked to the virus.

“I think we all just need to be aware that this is something that is developing and to have a high suspicion if someone is having a persistent fever,” said Dr. David Ohmstede, a pediatric cardiologist a Novant Health.

The disease has already claimed the lived of several children in New York, but so far, doctors in Charlotte said they are not seeing any cases.

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There is just a single known case that has some parameters for this illness in Mecklenburg County, but experts agree people will almost certainly see it at some point so being prepared and vigilant is critical.

“Probably the most important thing is that we all maintain a high index of suspicion so we don’t miss something and assume it’s something less serious,” said Ohmstede.

Ohmstede has been tracking this disease that is similar to Kawasaki disease, an illness the medical community has been familiar with since the 1970s.

It’s where a prolonged fever and rash can evolve into a multi-system inflammatory disease, targeting young children, toddlers or pre-kindergartners. The new disease has similar markers but has some key differences.

“It can be involving older children school-aged up through high school-aged children,” Ohmstede said. “They’re describing significant abdominal pain vomiting, but what is consistent is the fever and the rash.”

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Even though we are seeing a spike in cases at the same time as the coronavirus pandemic, Ohmstede said it is too early to say one is dependent on the other.

In some cases, the child is COVID-19 positive and in others, the patient initially tested negative for the virus, only to test positive later for antibodies. And about 1 in 5 cases haven’t been connected to COVID-19 at all.

“Why we’re seeing those we don’t fully understand, and bottom line, it’s an unknown at this point,” Ohmstede said.

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Other health officials agreed and said it can make treatment difficult.

“There is no playbook for how exactly what to expect, what to do. There is no rubber stamp prescription for this is exactly how we treat and beat this,” said Dr. Ryan Shelton.

Doctors said this isn’t a disease that can be spread. It’s not contagious, it’s reactionary, so COVID-19 might bring on this syndrome. But other illnesses could as well, and with so many unknowns about the disease, doctors are urging parents to be aware of and be vigilant for the symptoms.

The symptoms that are similar to Kawasaki disease are:

  • Persistent fever.
  • Inflammation.
  • Poor function in one or more organs.
  • Other symptoms similar to shock.

Mecklenburg County is asking local health care providers to fill out a form if they get one of these cases. That will then go to the state and allow them to track the disease.

New York City alone has 110 cases of the disease. Currently, the children who have died from it are all in the city.

Pediatric expert discusses Kawasaki disease