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3 cases of Kawasaki disease in kids suspected in Hillsborough County

A pediatric infectious disease specialist monitored three patients over the weekend with suspected Kawasaki disease. All three tested negative for COVID-19.

TAMPA, Fla. — Until recently, medical experts reassured the public that children were not likely to be impacted by severe symptoms associated with COVID-19.

Now, new data shows a possible link between coronavirus in kids and Kawasaki disease.

Dr. Claudia Espinosa is an associate professor at the University of South Florida and a Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist. She monitored three pediatric patients with suspected Kawasaki disease over the weekend. 

All three patients were under the age of three, tested negative for COVID-19, and had been discharged from the hospital by Tuesday. Only one case was confirmed Kawasaki disease and the patient was treated with intravenous immunoglobulin therapy.

What is Kawasaki disease?

According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, Kawasaki disease predominantly affects children five and younger and its more common in boys than girls. In extremely rare cases it can happen during adolescence and adulthood.

Kawasaki disease has a range of symptoms including high fever, inflammation of the eyes, mouth and throat, rashes, peeling skin and swelling throughout the arteries that lead to the heart.

"There is a theory that maybe it is triggered by a viral infection and it doesn’t seem absolutely uncommon that we are seeing it now," said Espinosa.

What's the connection with COVID-19?

Espinosa says there's been a recent uptick in Kawasaki disease patients across the country. Medical researchers are starting to make a possible connection between coronavirus and Kawasaki, a condition that causes inflammation in the blood vessels.

"It makes us suspicious that there’s a connection and knowing the virus causes an inflammation in adults, it makes sense that this may be on the spectrum of how it can present in kids," said Espinosa.

RELATED: VERIFY: Is COVID-19 causing Kawasaki disease in children?

What if you test negative for COVID-19?

None of the patients in Hillsborough county tested positive for COVID-19.

However, even if a child tests negative for coronavirus, that doesn't rule out a link between Kawasaki and COVID-19 in a patient.

Espinosa explained, "What we have been told from other places is that actually some of those kids may have COVID positive, others will not. Some of them will have the COVID antibody positive meaning they had the condition before. Unfortunately, the antibody test is not well distributed right now."

Should parents worry about Kawasaki disease?

Espinosa wants parents to be aware of the disease and how it presents. The symptoms are persistent fever for more than four days, rash, puffy hands and feet, pink or red eyes, cracked lips, very red tongue, and lymph nodes on the neck. Kids are extremely fussy and inconsolable when they have Kawasaki disease.

Most of the time, if caught early enough, it can be treated without complication.

Medical researchers are more worried about a new illness called pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome.

RELATED: 15-year-old Maryland girl's death linked to coronavirus

This syndrome is also being examined as a possible result of COVID-19 in children. Pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome presents similarly to Kawasaki disease but is much more severe, often including organ failure. Early data shows this syndrome, unlike Kawasaki disease, is more likely in children older than 10.

RELATED: 2 children in Florida are battling mystery illness linked to COVID-19

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