COVID-19 Day 61: No, children are not getting a new coronavirus disease. Probably.


COVID-19 is teaching many of us to be aware of things that should have been obvious. Wash your hands frequently. Stay home when you’re sick. Most news is fear-mongering click-bait.

Up to 5 NY Children Dead, 85 Sickened by Rare COVID-Related Illness
NBC News

‘Truly Disturbing’: Third NY Child Dies From Rare Syndrome Linked to COVID-19. Every Parents Nightmare
-Daily Beast

Mysterious Coronavirus Illness Claims 3 Children in New York
– The New York Times

As any parent, I was concerned about the safety of my young children so I read the NYT article. And after only a little digging, I came to the conclusion that it’s Fake News. I hate using that term popularized by President Trump but it accurately describes this fear-mongering story. Governor Cuomo and the news media are implying a connection between what some have dubbed, ‘Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome’ and COVID-19, is only loosely connected or more likely coincidental.

Reading the NYT article it states:

“A baffling ailment linked to Covid-19 has killed three young children and sickened 73 others across the state…Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Saturday, an alarming rise in a phenomenon that was first publicly identified earlier this week.”

Reading further, the article states that many of the symptoms bear some resemblance to a rare childhood illness called Kawasaki disease (KD). So I wondered what is KD? I found a reliable description at the CDC website summarized here:

KD is a rare disease first identified in Japan by Tomisaku Kawasaki in 1967 (hence the name). Symptoms include fever, rash, swelling of the hands and feet, irritation and redness of the whites of the eyes, swollen lymph glands in the neck, and irritation and inflammation of the mouth, lips, and throat. It most often affects boys and younger children. KD may have a winter-spring seasonality, and community-wide outbreaks have been reported occasionally. Estimate an incidence of KD ranging from 9 to 19 per 100,000 children under 5 years of age. [emphasis added]

Note the last two sentences. This is spring. The age of the child that died in NYC was 5 years old. We have a community-wide outbreak of symptoms. While “rare”, in a population the size of NYC (3.4 million), that means you should expect to see 306-646 cases of KD in a typical year. Given that NYC has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country, there’s a good chance some kids who would ‘normally’ get KD might also get COVID-19.

In fact, reading the ‘Possible Symptoms’  for this new syndrome reads exactly like a combination of symptoms of KD plus common symptoms of COVID-19. Many cases of Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome symptoms appear sometimes weeks after the patient contracted COVID-19 implying a weak causal relationship.

There’s a warning in statistics, correlation is not cause. Just because you see two odd things happening at the same time does not mean one causes the other. This chart comparing hanging deaths to US funding in space and technology is a good example.

correlation_chartDoctors still do not know what causes KD and it’s difficult to diagnose because there are no definitive blood tests for it. KD bears similarities to auto-immune diseases such as lupus, but what triggers most auto-immune disorders is still a mystery to scientists. KD is not communicable but given its higher occurrence in Asians, it implies a genetic predisposition. But if the cause and the markers for KD are unknown, and if  ‘Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome’ is a form of this disease, then it’s unlikely for pathologists to discover a common link to COVID-19 other than they occurred near the time of each other.

We’re only learning of all the ways that COVID-19 can affect our immune system,  such as triggering cytokine storms. It’s possible getting COVID-19 might trigger latent KD in a child. Or it’s possible the clustering of KD cases appearing in NY hospitals was due to the lockdown laws delaying parents from bringing their child in for a diagnosis. These things have to be figured out by pathologists and that appears to be underway, but in a 24-hour news cycle hungry for new hot stories about COVID-19, making one up seems even more common than KD.



Up to 5 NY Children Dead, 93 Sickened by Rare COVID-Related Illness

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