Indiana reports initial cases of coronavirus-related illness affecting children

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Indiana has its first cases of a coronavirus-related illness affecting children.

Kids have appeared to be mostly untouched by coronavirus. Only about a thousand of Indiana’s cases have been in people under 20. And I-U School of Medicine pediatric epidemiologist Chandy John says serious cases among kids tend to be either toddlers or older teenagers. But multisystem inflammation syndrome in children singles out the group in between.

John says MIS-C appears to begin with severe abdominal pain and diarrhea, then progresses to shock, with plunging blood pressure and heart malfunctions. While most COVID-19 cases among kids are mild, John says MIS-C, when it occurs, is typically more serious.

John says it’s a “puzzle” why MIS-C and coronavirus target age groups which appear to be mutually exclusive — a puzzle whose solution may help to come up with a treatment. John says researchers suspect it has to do with the difference in how the immune system functions in children and in adults.

That’s also the leading theory as to why MIS-C has popped up so long after COVID-19 itself did, The first cases were identified last month in England, where a 14-year-old boy died of the disorder. New York has reported more than 100 cases. John says the syndrome appears to follow about a month after virus cases peak. He says researchers theorize the infection triggers an immune response. In adults, that response sometimes shifts into overdrive, creating a “cytokine storm” in which the immune system starts attacking everything, not just the virus. In children, the theory goes, the continuing response to the infection takes longer to ramp up to dangerous levels, and instead of attacking the lungs, does its damage to the heart, blood vessels, and other systems.

For now, doctors are using the same therapies used for two other ailments with similar symptoms, Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome, with some success.

Most MISC patients identified so far turn out to have been exposed to coronavirus, but John says while researchers believe the virus causes the syndrome, it’s possible the two simply tend to occur together.

Health officials haven’t said how many Indiana cases there are. John says I-U Health’s Riley Hospital for Children has created a multidisciplinary task force of doctors to consult together on the cases it receives.

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