What to Know
- Pediatric inflammatory multi-system syndrome, or PIMS, is now being seen across the country and is striking newborns and teenagers alike
- Up to 5 children have already died and at least 135 have been diagnosed with the condition in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts
- The condition occurs six weeks after a child is exposed to COVID-19; common symptoms include fever, inflammation and rash
Over 10 children have now been treated in Massachusetts hospitals for a mysterious inflammatory syndrome believed to be related to the coronavirus.
The Boston Globe reported Thursday that Boston Children's Hospital has now treated six patients with pediatric inflammatory multi-system syndrome, or PIMS. MassGeneral Hospital for Children has treated four more juvenile patients, and Baystate Children’s Hospital in Springfield said it has seen "a small but unspecified number of cases" of the illness.
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Marylou Sudders, the state's health and human services secretary, said Thursday that the Department of Public Health is only aware of nine cases at this point. But that number is expected to rise, as she said a public health order has now been issued to hospitals and health care providers with the symptoms of the new syndrome, asking them to report any potential cases to the state.
"We don't know what the prevalence is of the condition yet in Massachusetts," Sudders said.
Gov. Charlie Baker likened it to how people initially didn't know to look for vaping related lung illnesses until the state shared information it had received from other states.
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"You're now going to have pediatricians and emergency rooms that may have seen some diagnoses that look like this over the past month or two and not known to ask the question," he said.
In Connecticut, five children have been treated for the syndrome at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. Connecticut Children's Medical Center also has three cases under investigation that are suspected to be the same condition.
The illness has already been identified in over 100 children in New York, and another 18 in New Jersey. At least three children have died in New York and two other deaths are being investigated for a possible link to the syndrome.
NBC10 Boston reported on Monday that four children had been treated for the illness at Boston Children's Hospital.
"It's causing fever, inflammation and rash, Dr. Jeffrey Burns, chief of Critical Care Medicine at Boston Children's Hospital, told NBC10 Boston. "It's occurring about six weeks after a child may have been exposed to a COVID-19 infection."
A complication of the coronavirus not even acknowledged by many a week ago, the new condition is now being seen across the country and is striking newborns and teenagers alike.
After fighting off the virus, a child's immune system is in overdrive and can cause an inflammatory syndrome – similar to toxic shock or what's called Kawasaki disease – that affects the skin, eyes and blood vessels, and can be deadly.
Health officials say symptoms include fever, and more than half of the cases reported having rashes, abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea. While it has been considered a direct symptom of COVID-19, less than half of the pediatric patients in New York City displayed any shortness of breath.
“Swelling of the hands or feet, eye redness, cracked lips, and this rash – all over rash – and you’ll very typically see it on the back,” said Dr. Tom Balcezak, chief clinical officer at Yale New Haven Health. “If you see those symptoms, call your medical professional, talk to your pediatrician and don’t delay your care.”