A new study of 33 youngsters admitted to a Long Island hospital with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children associated with COVID-19 sheds new light on the mysterious illness.
More than 200 children in New York State have been diagnosed and three have died from the illness that can cause inflamed muscles and breathing problems. It is similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome.
“The number one surprising thing is that it happened at all,” said Dr. Charles Schleien, chairman of the department of pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center and one of the authors of the study. “We were downplaying the pandemic for children, which was pretty clear, and then all of the sudden we end up with this interesting post-infectious issue.”
The study by the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, published this past weekend in the Journal of Pediatrics, focused on 33 young patients admitted to Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park between April 17 and May 13, the time when the syndrome was first discovered in the state.
Until then, cases of COVID-19 among children were relatively rare or mild. Experts are trying to determine what causes the syndrome, which appears to be the body’s overreaction to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Researchers found more than half of the patients were boys and the average age was 8. Most of the children were previously healthy but 6% were classified as overweight and 39% were considered obese.
Schleien said even though the median age was 8, they saw patients across the pediatric spectrum — from 2 years of age to 17.
He said like adults stricken with COVID-19, the children were obese at a rate significantly higher than the general population, which is closer to 15% or 18%.
All tested positive for COVID-19 or the antibodies. Virtually all of the children in the study, 97%, had gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain and 79% required an intensive level of care. Six of them had to be placed on ventilators.
“One of the most interesting findings for us was that three-quarters of the kids had some degree of shock, low blood pressure on admission or shortly after admission,” he said.
Most of them improved quickly after being treated with intravenous antibody/immunoglobulin treatment and high-dose aspirin.
All 33 children survived and their average hospital stay was four days, according to the study.
The racial breakdown of patients was 24% black, 9% white, 9% Asian, 45% other/multiracial and 12% unknown/declined. The ethnic breakdown was 27% Hispanic and 73% non-Hispanic.
Infections have declined greatly in recent weeks, mirroring the early decline in COVID-19 cases, he noted.
“We saw the peak four or five weeks after the peak of COVID-19,” he said.