Canadian Doctors Track Rare Childhood Illness Associated With COVID-19

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Canadian doctors are monitoring a rare disorder affecting children that may be associated with COVID-19.

The disease, called multisystem inflammatory syndrome or MIS-C, has been reported in children in the United Kingdom, Italy, France and the United States.

“This is an inflammatory autoimmune response,” says Dr. Stephen Freedman, professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at the University of Calgary. Freedman is currently leading a global study of COVID-19 infections in children. He says MIS-C is usually not contagious because by the time a child has the syndrome, they are probably no longer carrying the virus.

“It’s the antibodies and the immune system that were triggered by the virus that are now causing symptoms in children,” he said.

“The links between COVID-19 and this syndrome are not very clear,” said Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the World Health Organization. “There are children who have tested positive for the virus and others who have not. “

Doctors around the world are still trying to find a clear case definition. Symptoms currently associated with the disease include persistent fever, rash, red eyes, nausea and diarrhea. It is similar to what doctors generally identify as Kawasaki disease.

Dr. Freedman says that so far in Canada, there have been very few cases as serious as what has been reported in the United States.

“We don’t really have many children who fit this definition. Although now that we are much more aware of this, we are starting to look back and say, “Do we have children who have been diagnosed with Kawasaki disease who can also meet these criteria?”

He says the trend in other regions suggests that illnesses tend to follow the peak of COVID-19 infections by around four weeks.

Ontario reached its peak in late April. Doctors across the province expect to see more cases of MIS-C soon.

“We have not seen the severe or truly unusual type of Kawasaki disease or inflammatory syndrome described elsewhere,” said Dr. Jeremy Friedman, assistant pediatrician at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. He notes a slight increase in five cases of Kawasaki disease last week compared to an average of two per week. He adds that the vast majority of cases respond well to treatment.

“I think it is possible that in the next week or two we will see a few cases. As long as I think we are on the alert and keeping our eyes open, even if there are cases, I would be pretty confident that it would be perfectly manageable. “

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott announced Wednesday that the province is actively monitoring cases of illness.

Doctors encourage parents who believe their child may have the syndrome to seek medical attention or to take their child to the local emergency room.

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