Inflammatory disease shows up among young Missouri patients

O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) — A rare inflammatory syndrome affecting some children with the coronavirus has appeared in a small number of cases at Missouri hospitals.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital has treated “a few” children with COVID-19 — the illness caused by the coronavirus — and for symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease, hospital spokeswoman Laura High said Wednesday. She did not have information about the specific number of cases, or details such as the age of the afflicted children or their conditions.

Children’s Mercy Kansas City spokeswoman Lisa Augustine said that hospital is treating one patient with the syndrome.

COVID-19 is far less common in children than adults. Of Missouri’s 10,142 confirmed cases, as of Wednesday children under age 20 account for 331, or 3.3%. None of Missouri’s 542 coronavirus deaths have involved children, and generally, doctors continue to believe that most infected children develop only mild symptoms.

But in New York state, two young children and a teenager have died and the state is investigating about 100 cases of the mysterious syndrome, which affects blood vessels and organs and has symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome. Gov. Andrew Cuomo advised all hospitals to prioritize COVID-19 testing for children presenting with symptoms. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged parents to call their pediatricians if their children have a persistent fever, rash, abdominal pain or are vomiting.

Similar cases are showing up elsewhere in the U.S. and in Europe.

At least 3,000 U.S. children are diagnosed with Kawasaki disease each year. It is most common in children younger than 6 and in boys.

Dr. Alexis Elward, chief medical officer at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and a pediatric infectious disease physician, said the biggest concern for young patients with Kawasaki disease is inflammation of blood vessels that feed the heart muscle, a potentially deadly complication that she called “pretty unique to Kawasaki’s.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up after two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

In another blow to the Kansas City region’s economy, Cerner Corp. plans to move its annual convention online this year, saying hosting the event in-person would be “irresponsible and ill-advised.”

The convention draws an estimated 14,000 people to downtown Kansas City for several days every fall, The Kansas City Star reported. Visit KC, which promotes the region’s convention and tourism industry, has recorded 78 meeting and convention cancellations because of the coronavirus, costing the local economy more than $137 million.

Missouri will receive an additional $135 million in federal funds to expand coronavirus testing capabilities, Sen. Roy Blunt said. The funding comes from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Blunt said the funding will increase access to testing and reduce the time it takes to analyze results. It will also improve contact tracing, he said.

“Expanding coronavirus testing capacity is critical to making sure people have the information they need to stop the spread of this disease,” Blunt, a Republican, said in a statement. “As we increase testing, we can more confidently move forward with fully reopening schools and businesses.”


Associated Press reporter Margaret Stafford in Liberty, Mo., contributed to this report.