Pediatric COVID-19 Complications Still a Concern for Parents, Doctors

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As of Thursday, about a third of Connecticut residents are now fully vaccinated. But there’s still a warning out for the children who are too young to receive a shot.

“The message to families and parents is that we’re not out of the woods yet,” said Dr. Juan Salazar, physician-in-chief of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. “Even though we’re vaccinating a lot of people, kids can still get infected.”

Jace Bruno had COVID-19 in March. His mom Kendall Bruno said it went away fairly quickly. Then a month later, he was diagnosed with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C.

“Saturday morning, he woke up, he had red cracked lips, his tongue was white with red spots on it,” Kendall said.

That’s when they took him to Yale New Haven Hospital.

“He didn’t have the main symptom you’re told to look out for so that’s why we just kind of want to spread awareness, because even if it doesn’t look like the exact symptoms you’re supposed to be looking for, he had several of the other symptoms,” she said.

He had a fever for several days that his doctor thought may be a virus. He had stomach pain but no rash that’s often seen with MIS-C.

Salazar said 144 children have been treated for COVID-19 at their hospital during the pandemic.

“We have seen in the last three to four weeks an increase once again of kids coming in diagnosed with COVID-19,” Salazar said.

The hospital is part of a National Institutes of Health study to determine the causes of MIS-C in children and distinguish it from other illnesses. He said the immune system is triggered in the weeks after COVID-19 while the body is in recovery.

“So, the immune system is in overdrive and it can’t turn itself off,” Salazar said. “And then it begins to damage blood vessels and muscle tissue and skin tissue, brain, heart, lungs.”

He said about four million children in the United States have been diagnosed with coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates about 3,200 have been diagnosed with MIS-C, as many as 40 in Connecticut. There have been no deaths in the state, but 36 children in the country have died.

Salazar reminds parents that the cases are rare, but to pay attention following a COVID-19 diagnosis.

“The majority of these are not going to be MIS-C,” Salazar said. “But if you have a question whether your child has had COVID 19 or not, and the child doesn’t look well, a rash, fever, red eyes, swollen hands or feet, not doing well, not eating well, please consult your pediatrician.”

Salazar noted the children who were treated for MIS-C at Connecticut Children’s have recovered. Jace is back home recovering as well.

“On Fridays, it’s Jace and poppa day,” said the 5-year-old who is excited to spend the afternoon with his grandpa.

During the month when COVID-19 swept through the Bruno home, Jace’s father was fully vaccinated.

“There wasn’t really any way to isolate him and he still ended up not getting it. No symptoms at all so it definitely worked,” said Kendall.

That’s a reason why Salazar is encouraging teens 16 and older to get vaccinated. That age group can not only contract COVID-19, but also MIS-C.

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