Doctor explains rare syndrome related to COVID-19

More than 100 kids have a pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome that may be related to COVID-19 across the U.S., including children in Kentucky.
Posted at 1:28 PM, May 13, 2020

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — During the past few weeks, cases of children showing up to the hospital with rashes, fevers and other symptoms have been sparking questions whether kids who were previously thought to be mostly spared from COVID-19 may actually be at risk.

Dr. Sean McTigue, the Medical Director of Pediatric Infection Prevention and Control at Kentucky Children's Hospital, explained that despite the increase in syndrome cases, kids are still at low risk for COVID-19.

"Our data shows that the children have largely been spared, both in their their rate of infection, and also in in the severity of their illness," Dr. McTigue said. "So, while any children with severe illness, that's tragic, and we would like to avoid that as much as possible, the overall risk of children's still remains quite low."

As of Tuesday, two children in Kentucky have the syndrome: a 10-year-old on a ventilator and a 16-year-old.

"What is being recorded is something that they're calling pediatric multi system inflammatory syndrome," Dr. McTigue explained. "What it essentially is is a disorder where the immune system is causing inflammation that's kind of running, running haywire."

But McTigue explained there is still so much unknown about the syndrome that resembles Kawasaki Disease because of the way blood vessels are affected.

"[In New York] where they're having many of these same, the same findings that actually is very plausible due to what we know about COVID-19 in that the virus, actually in the infection with the virus does involve the lining of blood vessels. So seeing inflammation in the blood vessels could certainly go along with what we know about that, that virus," Dr. McTigue said. "But, we don't yet know is whether this is actually Kawasaki Disease that's being triggered by the COVID-19 virus, because we know that there are viral triggers for Kawasaki Disease even prior to this pandemic, or whether this is just a direct manifestation of the, of the virus itself or some kids are just having a more serious inflammatory response to it, or whether it's potentially some combination thereof."

Due to the lack of understanding of the syndrome among medical professionals, Dr. McTigue explained COVID-19 is being called "an association and not necessarily causation" right now.

"Because our understanding of this virus is still in its infancy, you know, given that, that we've only known about it for several months it's gonna take some more time to really fully understand exactly what is going on with those children," McTigue said.

At Kentucky Children's Hospital, kids have been mostly spared from the coronavirus except for one child who was admitted and has already been discharged.

"We have run 595 tests on children ages zero to nine years, and only three of those have been positive," Dr. McTigue noted. "So that's a positive rate of 0.5% which is exceptionally low. And then children aged 10 to 19 years, 266 total tests run through our emergency department with only nine positive for a positive rate of 3.4%."