CORONAVIRUS

Rare disease linked to coronavirus in children found in Cedar Rapids, hospital officials confirm

UnityPoint Health caring for state's first cases of inflammatory disease, now a mandatory reportable illness

State Public Health Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati speaks as Gov. Kim Reynolds (right) looks on, during a news conf
State Public Health Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati speaks as Gov. Kim Reynolds (right) looks on, during a news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center, Thursday, April 23, 2020, in Johnston, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

Two young patients with a rare inflammatory syndrome linked to coronavirus in children are being treated in a Cedar Rapids hospital, The Gazette learned Monday.

UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids confirmed its providers are caring for the state’s first reported cases of multisystem inflammatory disorder in children and adolescents, but declined to offer more details on these patients due to privacy concerns.

Dr. Caitlin Pedati, state epidemiologist and medical director of the state health department, confirmed during the governor’s daily news briefing that the Iowa Department of Public Health had received reports of two cases in Eastern Iowa on Friday afternoon.

Both patients are in stable condition, Pedati said during the briefing on Monday.

“We’re working with medical and local public health providers to gather more information,” she said.

In addition to making up a smaller proportion of those infected by COVID-19, most diagnosed children have not developed serious respiratory failure symptoms as has been observed in adults since the pandemic began. However, late last week federal public health officials alerted states of a new illness associated with COVID-19 among children.

Also known as pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or PMIS, it is a rare, potentially deadly syndrome that has appeared in recent weeks among hundreds of children across the country who have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.

UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids officials said the illness “appears to be a post-viral inflammation of the blood vessels including the vessels in the heart.” The condition can appear anywhere between a few days to a few weeks after COVID-19 infection.

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Severe cases may require admission to a pediatric hospital or intensive care unit for management of low blood pressure and other complications, officials stated.

“The new information around this syndrome is evolving daily, and we continue to follow the latest (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and Iowa Department of Public Health guidance regarding COVID-19 care,” UnityPoint Health officials said in an emailed statement.

The syndrome has been compared to toxic shock syndrome and Kawasaki disease, another rare childhood inflammatory condition that presents with similar symptoms.

“These two syndromes appear similar in that they both seem to cause what we call post-infectious inflammation, meaning that several weeks after a likely infection, people might develop signs of inflammation throughout the body,” said Pedati over video during the governor’s briefing.

“We do think this is a new condition distinct from Kawasaki disease,” she added.

According to a survey conducted by ABC News, health officials in 20 states and Washington, D.C., are investigating at least 200 confirmed or suspected cases of the syndrome in children thought to have been affected by COVID-19.

In New York, at least three children have died and more than 100 cases are being monitored, the state health department said.

Both the CDC and the World Health Organization issued news briefs about the syndrome on Friday, calling on federal, state and local public health agencies to collect data on the condition to help officials better understand its affects.

On Monday, Pedati announced it was now mandatory for medical providers and local public health departments to report cases of this new syndrome to the state public health department.

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“Like so many things with this response, this is an example of a place where we need to learn more,” Pedati said.

“In order to help do that, (Department of Public Health) Director (Gerd) Clabaugh and myself have made this disease a mandatory reportable condition here in the state of Iowa. This allows us to receive these reports from clinicians and public health professionals and allow them to gather more information and better understand this condition and how we can manage it.”

Under this mandate, hospitals must report any potential cases to the state. In turn, that information goes back to the local health departments through the Iowa Disease Surveillance System for further investigation, said Dave Koch, director of Johnson County Public Health.

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics stated Monday officials have not seen any patients with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome at the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

Mercy Iowa City, part of the MercyOne system, and Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids also informed The Gazette they have not seen any cases among their patients.

It’s unclear how this condition will affect the return to school, but Pedati said public health officials will continue to collaborate with other entities as they gather more information and learn more about this rare condition.

In the meantime, officials ask families and their children to continue practicing social distancing, frequent hand-washing and taking other steps to prevent an infection of COVID-19.

According to UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids officials and other public health experts, symptoms of multisystem inflammatory disorder in children and adolescents include:

• Persistent fever

• Conjunctivitis, or pink eye

• Rash

• Enlarged lymph nodes

• Swollen hands or feet

• Abdominal pain without explanation

• Vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Comments: (319) 398-8469; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

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