EDUCATION

Severe COVID cases emerging in kids

BY Joanna Gagis, Producer/Correspondent |

Amidst all the angst of COVID, a bright side has been the limited impact it’s had on New Jersey’s children. That is until recent reports of pediatric hospitalizations started to emerge in New York.

“As far as we know now, there is a new, severe form of COVID which we call Pediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Disorder, which is affecting the blood vessels and the heart. And that one presents with fever, persistent fever, more than four or five days. They develop rash, they have an abdominal pain, they may have vomiting or diarrhea. They also have swelling of the hands and feet and they have swelling of the neck,” said Dr. Figen Altunkaya, a pediatrician at Kinder Pediatric Urgent Care.

There have been about 50 cases in New York of Pediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Disorder. It’s landed otherwise healthy kids in the hospital, requiring some to be intubated. There are no reported cases in New Jersey, but health care providers are trying to understand the timing because this new wave is behind the curve of adult severity

“This is a very new information. We are every day getting information about this. We are trying to find out why they are having it. But as far as we know, this virus affects the inflammation in the body. It increases the inflammatory motivators. And it is one of the reason why they are having a severe form of the disease, which is very rare still,” said Altunkaya.

At Kinder Pediatric Urgent Care in Totowa, they’re now screening children and adults on a regular basis.

“We realized that children were the silent spreaders and we decided to continue treating children, but open our facility to screen adults. Yesterday we saw over 300 telemedicine visits,” said Kinder Pediatric Urgent Care COO Jillian Stratton.

According to Altunkaya, “20% of the population is pediatrics and 80% is adults.”

In New Jersey, about 2,600 children under the age of 17 have tested positive, 68 of those have been hospitalized and there’ve been no deaths, according to the Murphy administration.

The data still shows that most kids do fare very well if they test positive, but more needs to be learned from the recent outbreak in New York.

“Most likely these kids were exposed three or four weeks ago and then they developed the antibodies. But as a rare complication, their body reacted with inflammation and now they are getting sick,” said Altunkaya.

The message to parents is to remain vigilant because even if your child’s already been sick with COVID, severe inflammatory symptoms could appear even weeks later. If you have any questions, many telehealth options are available.

Update May 7: The State Department of Health is acknowledging Thursday potential cases of Pediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Disorder. It mirrors Kawasaki disease by attacking the blood vessels and heart. Bristol-Meyers Squibb Children’s Hospital in New Brunswick says it is treating five children for the disease.