The surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks in the State has left open the possibility of multisystem inflammatory syndrome among children, a rare disorder that involves constant fever and extreme inflammation resulting from exposure to SARS-CoV-2.
Public health experts point out that the disease has been found in children in countries such as the U.S. and the U.K. and States such as Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra around four weeks after the caseload peaked there.
K.K. Purushothaman, professor of Paediatrics, Government Medical College, Thrissur, told The Hindu on Thursday that like adults, a large majority of children too could be asymptomatic carriers of the virus. Unless tested properly, its presence would not be revealed. “Earlier, the number of cases was comparatively low. However, the reported caseload has now reached over 2.5 lakh in Kerala. There could be undetected infections too, may be one-third of our total population is already infected. In such a scenario, there is a possibility of children, so far protected owing to their confinement at homes, getting affected,” he said.
It might not manifest now itself, but a couple of weeks later, as seen in the U.S. and the U.K., Dr. Purushothaman said. “The infection may show up in the form of either symptoms or other problems among adults in the first phase. Only in the second phase does it lead to a dip in oxygen levels in blood , hypoxia, and other complications. Among children, there may not be a first phase of infection as most of them are asymptomatic and they may directly enter the second phase,” he noted.
The symptoms seen in children during this period too are markedly different from adults. “They may have acute abdominal pain, diarrhoea, or vomiting. Skin lesions, enlarged lymph nodes, strawberry tongue, and swollen hands and feet could show up,” he said. A study conducted between May 1 and July 15 in select hospitals in Mumbai revealed 23 cases and one death. Similar research done by the Kanchi Kamakoti CHILDS Trust Hospital, Chennai, led to the discovery of 19 such cases between May 4 and July 8. It is learnt that a few hospitals in Chennai are now reporting at least one or two cases every day.
“This syndrome, however, can be treated if detected early. Doctors should be alert if they notice the symptoms. All government medical college hospitals have the facilities. Health professionals and associations such as the Indian Medical Association and Indian Academy of Paediatrics should create awareness about it,” Dr. Purushothaman added.