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Rare syndrome that could be related to COVID-19 found in Utah child

(KSL TV, File)


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SALT LAKE CITY — As the novel coronavirus emerged, it appeared to be sparing children. Within the last 24 hours, there have been reports about seriously ill children in New York and Europe, with troubling symptoms that appear related to COVID-19.

It’s called pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome. It’s very rare, so far. But doctors are looking into a potential case here in Utah.

“It’s really only been about two weeks that it has been on people’s radar,” said Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of the Division of Pediatric Disease at University of Utah Health and Primary Children’s Hospital.

Pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome was first discovered among kids in the United Kingdom, and there are now more than 60 cases in New York hospitals.

“There are probably about 100 children in whom it’s been described worldwide,” said Pavia.

He said that kids have been developing high fevers, rashes, abdominal pain and even inflammation of the heart.

“It seems to be associated with COVID-19,” he said. “Most of the patients have had some evidence of infection, but not all. The majority have had evidence of infection that had occurred a little while ago.”

That suggested to Pavia that it happens late in the infection or in the recovery phase.

“It tells us not to underestimate this virus,” he said. “We still don’t understand everything that it can do.”

While doctors don’t understand a lot about this pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, Pavia said it looks like it may be collateral damage from the immune response to the virus.


It tells us not to underestimate this virus. We still don’t understand everything that it can do.

–Dr. Andrew Pavia


“This virus does a lot of strange things,” he said. “It attacks blood vessels. It causes clotting disorders. We’ve seen strokes and blood clots in the legs and lungs.”

Approximately 250 Utah children under age 14 have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Pavia. Only three have been hospitalized.

As for the pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome?

“We are investigating one patient who had what appeared to be Kawasaki disease,” he said. “But this was during the time of COVID-19. So we are continuing to investigate whether this is related.”

Kawasaki disease

As news of the new syndrome spread yesterday, Shannon Lohmeier’s phone lit up.

“It was crazy,” she said. “All day long I had text messages.”

Her nearly 2-year-old son, Aidan, has Kawasaki disease, and she is always on alert for any new information about that disease.

Shannon Lohmeier’s nearly 2-year-old son, Aidan, has Kawasaki disease. (Photo: KSL TV)
Shannon Lohmeier’s nearly 2-year-old son, Aidan, has Kawasaki disease. (Photo: KSL TV)

“They were asking me, ‘Hey, isn’t that what your son has? Hey, are you scared now? What does this mean for you guys?’” she said.

Kawasaki disease is cited for similar symptoms as the new syndrome. But at this point, that rare disease has not been linked to COVID-19 other than the similarity of symptoms with this new syndrome.

Lohmeier has kept Aidan in isolation since the beginning of the flu season in November because of his ongoing health issues.

“We have to continue to keep him safe, and make sure that he doesn’t come down with the COVID,” said Lohmeier.

She empathized with the parents discovering their children have the new, rare syndrome, even though Aidan’s illness is different. When Aidan’s temperature spiked one year ago and he had a seizure, they were racing to the hospital themselves.

A couple of days later, they discovered he had Kawasaki disease.

“It was pretty scary,” she said. “We spent a month total in the hospital with him.”

Aidan takes medication daily and has monthly visits with his doctor.

“Long-term? He will be able to live a relatively normal life,” said Lohmeier. “He can play like a normal kid does.”

Pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome impact

It’s too early to tell whether children with pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome will have lifelong impacts. For most children who get COVID-19, Pavia said it won’t be serious. But there is a rare chance of this complication.

“The take-home message is not to be super anxious,” said Pavia. “But it’s still important not to let your kids get infected.”

So take all of those precautionary measures that have been reinforced over the last couple of months. If your child gets sick, talk to your pediatrician.

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Jed Boal

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