Mom sends warnings about mysterious illness linked to COVID-19

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It was seven years ago when Brittni Paez's son was diagnosed with Kawasaki Disease, a rare inflammatory illness found in young children.

"My son was four. He's 11 now," Paez said. "He woke up on a Saturday with a fever."

She took him to a clinic where he tested positive for strep. He was given antibiotics, but he still had a fever several days later. That's when she started to notice his body began to change.

"He had the blood shot eyes, which is one of the symptoms of Kawasaki," she Paez said. "He had a rash on his trunk with redness."

He was misdiagnosed at least three times before she finally learned he was suffering from an inflammatory illness.

"He was four years old, so it was hard for him to put into words. But, I do remember the day he went to St. Luke's. He was just moaning a lot and crying. And I would want to hold him and comfort him, but it seemed like it just hurt for me to touch him," she said.

Doctors say a similar illness linked to COVID-19 called Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C) is now infecting some children around the world, but just like Kawasaki disease, it's extremely rare.

"Really, these kids have not had underlying illnesses. They've not had cancer or transplants or rheumatic diseases," said Dr. Eyal Muscal, chief of rheumatology at Texas Children's Hospital.

He says many of the Kawasaki-like illnesses appear to be popping up after cities peak with COVID-19 cases. Still, the direct connection is unknown.

"It appears that probably the peak of adult (COVID-19) cases in Harris County was probably the second week in April, so I think we'll have to sort of see what things look like in the next few weeks," Muscal said. "Many of these kids, if their initial (COVID-19) testing is negative, they appear to have antibody testing, meaning that they've probably been exposed to the virus two-three or four weeks before, but now their body is revving up in an inappropriate inflammatory response."

More than 200 possible and confirmed cases of MIS-C have been reported in 19 states. So far, none have been reported in Harris County.

Symptoms include stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, crack lips, and swollen hands and feet.

The illness itself isn't contagious, but could be deadly if left untreated.

Paez wants other parents to be aware.

"Keep your eyes out for anything you think is out of the ordinary. Don't let it go too long. Don't think it's nothing because that' the kind of mom I used to be," she said.

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