Based on initial diagnosis by medical experts, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) concluded that the two children, including an 11-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl, had been infected with Kawasaki disease, an illness that causes inflammation in blood vessels throughout the body. They were discharged after treatment.
"They did not conform to multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)," KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong told a regular press briefing on Wednesday. The two children have tested negative for COVID-19 in the real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method that amplifies specific DNA samples.
MIS-C cases have been reported in the U.S. and Europe. The inflammatory response shares common features with other pediatric inflammatory conditions, including Kawasaki disease. Symptoms include a high fever, a rash, very red eyes, abdominal pain and skin peeling on hands or feet.
The 11-year-old boy, who returned from the Philippines on March 9, was hospitalized on April 28 and discharged on May 11. The four-year-old girl was put into intesive care on May 14 and was discharged on May 30. Another case was reported for diagnosis.
Kim Ye-jin, a professor of health science and technology at Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, said that experts cannot say if MIS-C is related to COVID-19. "It is not clear whether MIS-C has an exact connection with COVID-19. There is a shortage of data because the degree of severity varies from country to country or by age."
In MIS-C cases, some children who experience the inflammatory disease are testing positive for the novel coronavirus, while others are testing negative for the virus but positive for coronavirus antibodies, suggesting a possible post-infectious inflammatory response even weeks after exposure to the virus or being sick.
Normally, children experience mild to moderate symptoms or show no symptoms at all. Children with an underlying health condition or an immunodeficiency are generally at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19. But so far, there is little information about how or why the virus may trigger MIS-C in a small number of children who are seemingly healthy. The gravest risk is heart failure.
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