Mysterious Illness Targeting Children Could Have Links to the Coronavirus


Roselind Zeng, Staff Writer

With the world in a state of hyper-vigilance from COVID-19, healthcare systems around the globe are fighting the clock for effective treatments. Yet in the meantime, a new illness is entering the scene, a possible secondary disease mainly targeting children and young adults.

As of May 10, Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (PMIS) has been observed in 85 children, as reported by New York governor Andrew Cuomo. Three children have succumbed to PMIS so far, and a vast majority of patients have tested positive for COVID antibodies. As of now, not much is known regarding how exactly PMIS is related to COVID-19, and whether or not this will impact the statement that “children are less at risk for coronavirus.” 

Currently, what is known is that PMIS seems a hybrid of Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Kawasaki disease inflames arterial walls, and if not monitored, can lead to  necrosis of the heart. In addition, Kawasaki leads to rashes, high body temperatures, swelling of the neck glands and the extremities, and redness of the eyes.  Meanwhile, TSS leads to fever, shock, and shutdown of the bodily organs. Kawasaki disease is the most prominent cause of acquired heart disease in the U.S., leading to coronary artery enlargement and aneurysms. TSS is caused by toxins produced by staphylococcus bacteria invading the body. In addition to all these, PMIS patients experience pain in the abdomen, as well as gastrointestinal discomfort. 

Pediatrician Dr. Glenn Budnick posits that a person’s “immune system is overreacting to [coronavirus], and because these are inflammatory diseases, this overreaction can cause a Kawasaki-like disease.” 

While New York has seen a sizable number of cases, the condition seems to be a worldwide occurrence. Seattle has reported a healthy teen having been sent to the ICU for shock symptoms, and Stanford Children’s Hospital also has a case. There have also been a few children in the UK, Italy, and Spain. 

Governor Cuomo has prompted New Yorkers to stay on their toes, and remain compliant with state and federal quarantine orders. As he puts it, “It’s still very much a situation that is developing, but is a serious situation.” In response to these recent findings, New York’s Department of health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been working in tandem to create a national criteria for healthcare workers to refer to when diagnosing young patients. For further insight, Governor Cuomo announced a partnership between the Department of Health, New York Genome Center, and Rockefeller University to conduct genome and RNA sequencing on PMIS. 

As the coronavirus death toll mounts to 79,000, a possible threat now comes to the demographic previously forecasted as low-risk. For now, flattening the curve still remains difficult, and scientists are rushing to uncover the mystery behind COVID-19 and PMIS. 


Photo Courtesy of ABCNEWS.COM