Rare, mystery illness affecting kids, with possible COVID-19 link, reported in metro

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A mystery illness affecting children has made its way to the metro.

Doctors across the country are trading notes on PMIS, or Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome. It’s been compared to a couple existing diseases, and some medical experts believe it’s related to COVID-19.

First, and perhaps most importantly, doctors say this illness is very rare. It’s an autoimmune illness that gives kids a fever, red eyes and lips, rashes, stomach pains.

Dr. Jennifer Schuster treats kids with infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital, and she confirmed doctors there have treated one patient with PMIS.

It first showed up at the end of April in the United Kingdom. Doctors have now reported more than 100 kids sick in New York, as well as cases in Connecticut, Los Angeles and across the state in St. Louis.

PMIS is similar to Kawasaki Disease, which Dr. Kelsey Ragsdale, a pediatrician at Pediatric Associates in Kansas City, said affects about 2,000 children in the United States annually.

“It’s tough because there are similarities, but I think it’s still a little too early to say, ‘Is this something new that coronavirus specifically is causing?’” she said.

Some PMIS patients tested positive for COVID-19, some tested positive for antibodies, while others didn’t show any signs of the virus at all.

Doctors said that’s where it gets confusing. This new illness is happening during the pandemic, but they aren’t sure if COVID-19 is the cause.

“We’re seeing these cases start to occur after the peaks of COVID-19 in some of these areas, and so from an epidemiology standpoint, it does appear that there is some time link,” Schuster said.

Medical experts are comparing this illness to Kawasaki Disease, and it shares similar properties with Toxic Shock Syndrome as well.

“We think that this is a unique entity, that this is not Kawasaki Disease. This is different,” Schuster said.

She also said kids with PMIS tend to be a little older, into their teens, and also more ill.

Both of the physicians emphasize the new illness is rare.

“We are being mindful. Our pediatric providers at this hospital and our community providers as well, are very aware,” Schuster said. “They know what to look for, but this is an uncommon complication of what is a relatively uncommon disease COVID-19, we think, in children.”

“It helps me sleep at night to know that kids by and large are not being severely affected by this virus, and I’m grateful for that,” Ragsdale said.

The pair also advises the protection protocol should be the same. Parents should continue what they’re doing to keep kids from getting sick with any virus: washing hands, staying six feet apart from people who aren’t immediate relatives, and when you can’t, then wear a mask.

As of May 13, Platte, Wyandotte, and Johnson County each reported zero cases. FOX4 hasn’t heard back from Jackson County yet, but we’ll update this story when we do.

According to confirmation from Children’s Mercy Hospital, doctors have treated at least one case of PMIS but it’s not clear where the patient is from.

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