2 children test negative for mysterious illness linked to COVID-19, says ETCH

Published: May. 12, 2020 at 2:39 PM EDT
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East Tennessee Children’s Hospital said two children tested negative for a mystery illness linked to COVID-19.

ETCH said both children tested negative for COVID-19 antibodies, a test doctors are using to determine whether a patient has the inflammatory syndrome.

ETCH said it has not had a single COVID patient treated at its hospital to date.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joe Childs told

that it was testing two children who may have pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome. At least 130 cases have been reported across the country, and most states are affected.

Dr. Childs said one child has already recovered, but a second child was still undergoing treatment.

"This new complication is really brand new, just the last couple of weeks," said Dr. Childs. "The description of the cases are pretty broad. We have patients who are under investigation for this, and ultimately, we wait on the testing to tell us for sure whether they have this pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome. We think it’s much more common in areas where there’s a lot of COVID-19 disease, and that has not been the case in our area."

Dr. Childs said the likelihood of East Tennessee encountering a spike in cases of the mystery illness is low.

"If we start seeing more COVID-19 here, then we may have more pediatric cases to be concerned about. But our case load right now in this area is still quite low."

So what is the link between the mystery illness and COVID-19? Most children who have it tested positive for the virus or had a positive antibody test. But beyond that, Dr. Childs said the connection between COVID-19 and pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome is not fully understood.

"I think that’s still to be defined. It is true that most of them have antibodies, so a period of two to maybe four or five weeks before they present with this they encountered the virus and had the virus in their body. The antibodies they developed to it created this problem, it’s kind of an autoimmune problem. The antibodies that are clearing the virus are also damaging normal tissue."

In most cases, Dr. Childs said early detection and treatment can mean a good prognosis. He said bad outcomes in New York could be because people are afraid to go to the hospital when something seems wrong.

"The outcomes of this have been good; it just needs to be recognized."

Symptoms of the complication include:

- High fever

- Rash

- Vomiting

- Diarrhea

- Redness of the eyes and lips

- Swollen lymph glands

"It’s a large age range from toddlers up to teenagers, but they can get sick pretty quickly and the heart muscle is involved, and it’s not functioning as well as it should," said Dr. Childs. "They're going to look sick, and parents are going to recognize and pediatricians are going to notice there’s a problem here."

Officials say East Tennessee Children's Hospital has not treated a single child for COVID-19, although the hospital is aware of pediatric cases within the community treated by pediatricians.

"Among all the kids that get the COVID virus itself, this is a pretty rare complication as we know it right now. But we are finding a lot of kids do get the COVID virus to begin with. I don't think people need to be panicked about this, but I think they do need to be aware of this presentation so if symptoms develop they would seek care for it," said Dr. Childs.

Copyright 2020 WVLT News. All rights reserved.

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