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Health alert sent to TN providers about possible COVID-19 related inflammatory disease

Posted at 7:02 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 20:02:01-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As doctors treat a small percentage of young children with a rare disease possibly linked to COVID-19 in the country, the state has asked health care providers to report any cases.

The Tennessee Department of Health issued a Health Alert to health care providers last week that included information about the pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome. There have been no cases of the rare disease in the state as of Wednesday afternoon.

PMSI resembles the Kawasaki Disease, a rare condition that inflates blood vessels and causes cardiovascular damage among children. While the exact cause is unknown, exposure to a virus could be a possible trigger.

"It's a condition where the body's immune system is overreacting so it gets inflamed," VUMC Assistant Professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases Dr. Isaac Thomsen told NewsChannel 5. "We don't really know what turns it on but the immune system tends to attack other parts of the body and could be damaging that way."

Symptoms of PMSI include prolonged fever, rash, swollen lymph nodes, cracked lips, red eyes, severe abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Most cases have been on the milder side and manageable, but extreme instances could lead to a ventilator or a machine to help pump the heart.

Most of the cases are in cities badly hit by COVID-19 such as New York City where more than 100 children have been targeted. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in his briefing that 14 other states are now investigating similar cases such as Kentucky, Georgia and Mississippi. Many of the children in New York with the syndrome tested positive for COVID-19, but not all.

Doctors in Nashville said they're still learning more about the disease and cases are still extremely rare. When NewsChannel 5 asked if parents should be worried, Dr. Thomsen said this is a time for everyone to be more aware.

"It's not something that should be keeping parents up at night," Thomsen said. "But if there are symptoms that develop we have to be watchful for that."

Parents should call their pediatrician first if they see clusters of the symptom. If for some reason the child has to go to the emergency department, Monroe Carrell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt said it's ready.

"We need to be prepared for these things and we are. We also need to acknowledge that we're still learning more everyday about this and these are rare instances," Dr. Andrew Smith, medical director of the cardiac intensive care unit at the hospital, said.

The Centers for Disease Control plans to alert doctors nationwide about the syndrome.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers are also leading a nationwide study to figure out the rate of rate of COVID-19 in children and families.

The study hopes to find out how many children ages 1 to 21 have been infected, the percentage of those infected who develop symptoms of COVID-19 and any differences in immune responses to the virus between children and adults within the same household.