Seattle sees 1st case of childhood disease tied to virus

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle has had its first confirmed case of a rare inflammatory disease in children closely tied to COVID-19.

The disease being called “pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome” was identified and treated at Seattle Children’s Hospital, KUOW reported.

King County Public Health said the patient was a resident of Snohomish County and there have been no other confirmed cases in the area.

It involves a “hyper response” of the child’s immune system to the virus, according to Dr. Michael Portman, who directs pediatric cardiovascular research at Children’s.

It can lead to inflammation of the blood vessels, and affect the heart’s arteries, leading to coronary aneurysms. In similar diseases, that can lead to lifelong heart issues, Portman said. The syndrome is rare and most children infected with the virus develop only mild illness.

The disease is being linked to COVID-19, Portman said, because almost all of the patients have had confirmed cases of the virus, positive antibody tests, or known exposure.

Portman said it is very similar and at times appears almost identical to a disease called “Kawasaki disease,” which was identified in Japan in the 1960s. According to Portman, Kawasaki disease is fairly common at Seattle Children’s.

Around 30% patients at Children’s with Kawasaki disease are of Asian descent, Portman said. But the disease “seems to affect Hispanic and black children more severely” due to a “more robust inflammatory response.”

Most of the cases of the new syndrome have been in the New York area and a handful have been fatal.

Portman’s advice to parents is “not to freak out,” but if a child has a persistent fever, which is a symptom, he recommends getting it checked.

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