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COVID-19 leads to serious heart complications in some children

Updated: May. 8, 2020 at 6:27 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Health authorities are trying to figure out why some children with severe cases of COVID-19 are experiencing heart failure that appears to mimic Kawasaki Disease.

“It’s a virus that’s changing quite a bit,” Atrium Health’s Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Gonzalo Wallis said.

Most children who contract COVID-19 only show mild symptoms.

However, in some cases, children may experience complications such as inflammation in the heart, inflammation in the blood vessels or inflammation to the blood vessels and the heart.

“When a child has both, it’s a very unfortunate form of heart failure,” Dr. Wallis said.

Mortality rates of children with COVID-19 are still low but Dr. Wallis said it does not mean that children are protected because doctors have no way of knowing who is at risk for severe complications.

“To me, that’s sort of the humbling and scary part of the disease is you don’t know who is at risk and who is not at risk. That’s why I think taking the proper precautions is the right thing to do,” Dr. Wallis said.

Because many children have such mild cases of COVID-19, there is limited data on how the coronavirus affects children. However, some children have shown complications of coronavirus that appear to be similar to the effects of Kawasaki Disease.

“Since early March, we’ve been hearing about these kids who look like they have Kawasaki Disease but also have COVID-19. So, we began to question whether it was really Kawasaki or COVID manifesting like Kawasaki,” Levine Children’s Hospital Epidemiologist Dr. Amina Ahmed said.

Dr. Ahmed said Kawasaki Disease is a syndrome that presents itself with the following symptoms: high fever, red eyes, swollen and cracked lips, and swollen hands and feet.

“It’s unclear whether this is Kawasaki with a strange manifestation, whether it’s COVID that looks like Kawasaki, or if it’s a combination of that,” Dr. Ahmed said.

Dr. Ahmed said there are ways to treat Kawasaki Disease, which includes injecting antibodies into the child’s system, aspirin and steroids.

Dr. Ahmed said that, so far, this strange case of COVID-19, or Kawasaki, has only appeared in about 50 children. They are still gathering information to learn more about the virus and its effects.

“I don’t want anyone to be alarmed about what we’re hearing about Kawasaki, but at the same time I want people to remain vigilant and think this doesn’t seem like my child maybe I should take this child in to be evaluated,” Dr. Ahmed said.

Kawasaki Disease mostly occurs in children ages 5 years old and younger.

However, Dr. Ahmed said they have seen COVID-19 cases that present like Kawasaki Disease mostly in children between the ages of 12 and 17.

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