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Pediatricians sound alarm on coronavirus-related illness affecting kids in South Florida

Doctors report more multi-system inflammatory syndrome cases

Doctors sound alert on coronavirus-related illness affecting kids in Miami-Dade
Doctors sound alert on coronavirus-related illness affecting kids in Miami-Dade

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Pediatricians in South Florida suspect they have cases of the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, a condition that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported is related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Two hospitals in Miami-Dade County and one in Broward County have patients in the pediatric intensive care unit who are exhibiting symptoms of MIS-C, a post-viral syndrome. Doctors at Holtz Children’s Hospital in Allappattah, at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital near Coral Gables and at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood are sounding the alarm.

The pediatricians believe MIS-C is a spectrum of disorders defined by how some children’s immune systems are responding to the coronavirus. Nicklaus Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Marcelo Laufer said the theory is that the virus triggers an inflammatory process.

“By the time the inflammatory process starts, the virus is not present in the body anymore," Laufer said. “Therefore, many of these patients are not contagious by the time we see them.”

The cases in Miami-Dade and Broward counties remain under investigation. The Florida Department of Health is tasked with the investigation and the CDC is gathering data.

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital has two confirmed cases and the patients are recovering. According to Jennifer Piedra, a spokeswoman for the Jackson Health System, Holtz Children’s Hospital has two confirmed cases of the rare and treatable disease.

“Both patients are receiving appropriate treatment in the pediatric intensive care unit, and are showing signs of improvement,” Piedra wrote in an e-mail.


Laufer and other pediatricians want parents to know the disease can be serious if left untreated.

“We want these patients to come to the hospital and feel safe. It’s a safe environment,” Laufer said. “We feel it’s important for the community to know they’re going to be safe if they come to the emergency room.”

Patients first present with fever and inflammation. The symptoms of the syndrome vary from case to case. Some children have red eyes and red tongues. The organ involvement can be cardiac, renal, respiratory, hematologic, gastrointestinal, dermatologic or neurological.

“What’s striking about this particular illness is by day one or two the kids get very sick,” Laufer said. "And fortunately in Florida, we are lucky they are starting after the rest of the world, so we had the advantage of knowing what had worked and what didn’t work in other places.”

The Evelina London Children’s Hospital pediatric intensive care unit was among the first to identify the illness. In the U.S., the disease first emerged in New York. CNN recently reported there are suspected cases in about 16 more states.

Before pediatricians identified the pattern, some children were initially misdiagnosed as Kawasaki disease cases. Both illnesses can cause inflammation in blood vessels throughout the body.

“The gastrointestinal symptoms are more than in Kawasaki, they get significant abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea -- which usually is not as prominent in Kawasaki," Laufer said. "And then, they have a rash which is basically redness in different parts of the body and swelling of the hands, swelling of the feet.”

Symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease:

  • High fever
  • Very red eyes
  • Red, dry, cracked lips
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Rash

Local 10 News Assignment Desk Managers Kerry Weston and Peggy Phillip contributed to this report.

About the Authors:

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.