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Doctors warn of rare syndrome being seen in Michigan children

Syndrome may be linked to coronavirus (COVID-19)

DETROIT – Children's Hospital of Michigan is warning that a mysterious syndrome sickening children in New York and Europe is impacting children here too.

It’s been named Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome.

"It is rare, but it is here. I mean we're absolutely seeing," said Dr. Rudolph Valentini, Chief Medical Officer at Children's Hospital. "We believe that this is an association with COVID. Some of our patients are actually COVID-positive, some have been COVID-exposed and test COVID-negative when they get here. Ultimately, this is going to require some additional investigation to try to link it to COVID."

Children's Hospital has seen 15 to 20 cases, all in the last two weeks.

"We have several in the ICU right now, and we have several in our hospital right now," said Valentini.

Valentini sent a letter to doctors in Michigan warning them to be on lookout for this syndrome.

He wants parents to be on guard as well because the symptoms can be typical of other childhood illnesses, but can quickly progress to a life-threatening situation.

"It can get serious very quickly. Like within hours," said Valentini.

Some children have been so sick that they required a heart lung bypass machine called ECMO.

"They were on the verge of cardiac arrest. It's that advanced level of heart dysfunction," explained Valentini.

The symptoms in younger children can include:

  • Fever for >48 hours
  • Rash
  • Red or peeling palms or soles
  • Red and cracked lips
  • Red inflamed eyes
  • Strawberry red tongue.

Older children and teenagers tend to have more subtle symptoms which can include:

  • Fever for > 48 hours
  • Rash
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain or diarrhea

Valentini said the rash tends to be red and blotchy, showing up on the cheeks, legs or arms, but it has also appeared as little dots.

The syndrome is puzzling because children in general have seemed to suffer few symptoms from COVID-19. If the connection is proven --

"This is a game changer. This one now puts these kids right in the crosshairs of complications from COVID," said Valentini.

Cases of the syndrome have been seen in babies all the way up to teenagers. There has been one reported death in a 14 year-old boy in London.

Valentini said that doctors can treat this effectively if parents seek help quickly.

“If the child is not right, they have fever and they’re just not right, if they have any of these other symptoms, please call your pediatrician, can’t reach your pediatrician, can’t be seen by a doctor, go to your local emergency room, preferably one with expertise with children,” said Valentini.