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Statewide Panel Looking At Inflammatory Syndrome Linked To COVID-19 In Children

Child getting temperature taken.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Illinois health officials suspect a handful of children in the Chicago region have a syndrome connected to COVID-19, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health and a physician on a task force looking into the syndrome.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified the condition as multi-system inflammatory syndrome, which affects a small number of children who contract the coronavirus.

The symptoms include a fever, rash and stomach pain, said Dr. Doug Carlson, chair of SIU School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics. He said the syndrome is rare but has responded to treatment.

“This is a very serious illness and kids are getting very sick. But that has responded to hospitalizations. It has been nearly uniformly survivable,” Carlson said.

Carlson is a member of a statewide public health task force focusing on multi-system inflammatory syndrome. The task force will first educate healthcare professionals and the public about the condition, and come up with a reporting system for public health departments to track how many kids are getting sick.

“These cases are not that subtle. I think parents worry, ‘Oh my goodness, could my children have this potentially serious side effect and never know they had COVID?’ No. You’ll notice,” Carlson said.

He said most parents will seek medical care for their kids who are showing the symptoms of this condition. The task force is trying to make sure physicians around the state are familiar with the symptoms, and can diagnose and treat it.

So far, no cases are suspected in central Illinois. Carlson said that makes sense because the syndrome is showing up in places that have already reached their peak in cases.

“This seems to be a syndrome showing up in places where (COVID-19) is most prevalent,” Carlson said. If there will be cases in central Illinois, he said they would see it in the next few weeks.

Late last week, the task force members suspected 10 children had the condition. Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for IDPH, revised that number down to four early this week. She said a few cases were eliminated upon further evaluation and others were of children from other states.

Carlson said the prevalence of the condition could affect reopening plans in Illinois, particularly for schools and summer camps.

“I don’t want to alarm people but it is something that needs to be taken into consideration as we bring large groups of kids back together,” he said.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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