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An alarming inflammatory syndrome in children could be linked to the coronavirus and health officials are preparing to release warning to doctors. Information on the syndrome will be important as leaders still struggle to address COVID-19‘s disproportionate impact on the Black community.

According to CNN, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will release an alert soon telling doctors to be aware of the inflammatory syndrome, which symptoms include fever, inflammation, poor function in one or more organs, and other symptoms similar to shock.

The condition was first reported by New York officials and soon more states started reporting diagnoses of the syndrome this week.

The Boston Children’s Hospitals formed an informal panel of pediatricians and they called the mysterious illness “Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome Potentially Associated with COVID-19.”

“We will provide a working case definition of what cases look like,” a spokesman for CDC said. Physicians will be asked to report cases to local and state health departments so that the CDC can build information about the syndrome. 

The CDC is also working with the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists to get a definition, which could be released on Wednesday or Thursday, the CDC spokesman continued.

Currently, the New York State Department of Health is looking into about 100 possible cases of the illness in children, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A majority of the cases are in kids between the ages of 5 and 9 (29%) and between 10 and 14 (28%), according to state data. Three young people have died due to the illness, announced the governor last week. “We lost three children, (a) 5-year-old boy, 7-year-old boy and 18-year-old girl,” Cuomo said on Tuesday.

The Kentucky Health Commissioner announced two patients diagnosed with the syndrome in the state, a 10-year-old in intensive care and a 16-year-old who is doing well.

“The children who get sick with this can have cardiovascular collapse and require supportive measures to maintain their blood pressure, or respiratory collapse requiring breathing support with a mechanical ventilator,” Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said.

A Boston Children’s Hospital spokeswoman, Erin Tornatore, said two kids with the syndrome are hospitalized there, however, they weren’t in intensive care.

“In some cases, children present with shock and some have features of Kawasaki disease, whereas others may present with signs of cytokine storm. In some geographic areas, there has been an uptick in Kawasaki disease cases in children who don’t have shock,” Boston Children’s Hospital rheumatologist Dr. Mary Beth Son explained. 

Kawasaki disease features symptoms such as inflammation in the walls of medium-sized arteries and it can damage the heart. Meanwhile, a cytokine storm is an immune system overreaction that can result in widespread inflammation and organ damage. Blood thinners and immune system modulators are two forms of treatment.

“To date, most children affected have done well. Treatments have included anticoagulation, IV immunoglobulin, IL-1 or IL-6 blockade, and corticosteroids,” read the Boston Children’s Hospital website. “Some children have only needed supportive care.”

There is no word on the race of the kids with the mysterious inflammatory syndrome. It can be added to the list of needed racial data on coronavirus or coronavirus-linked patients. Similar to how Black adults tend to have pre-existing health conditions that can gravely impact their experience with the coronavirus, Black children also disproportionately experience pre-existing conditions. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, “Black children are 4 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital for asthma, as compared to non-Hispanic white children.”

Such reports increase the urgency to find a detailed and rigorous approach to addressing COVID-19 in the Black community.

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