TALLAHASSE, Fla. — Florida’s surgeon general has acknowledged that a syndrome that attacks children and is associated with COVID-19 has surfaced in Florida, adding a scary new dimension to the battle against the coronavirus in the state.
Surgeon General Scott Rivkees encouraged physicians and hospitals to make sure they report any suspected cases of what is known as a "multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children" to health department officials.
"We are beginning to see cases nationally and a few cases in Florida of this inflammatory disorder that is infecting children," Rivikees said Monday in a statewide call with hospital representatives. "If you see cases like that, make us aware at the Department of Health."
The Florida Department of Health, which Rivkees oversees, did not immediately comment Tuesday on the number of cases in the state of the syndrome, which goes by the abbreviation MIS-C. But Holtz Children’s Hospital, which is part of Miami’s Jackson Health System, has two confirmed cases.
"Both patients are receiving appropriate treatment in the pediatric intensive care unit, and are showing signs of improvement," a statement from the hospital said.
The hospital would not say when the patients were admitted or how long they have been at the hospital.
The Miami Herald first reported the two cases.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent out a health advisory to physicians last week detailing the emergence of MIS-C in New York City and New York state, with 15 children hospitalized between April 16 and May 4. Many of the patients, who ranged in ages from 2 to 15, were admitted to an intensive care unit, the CDC noted in the advisory.
As of May 12, the number of patients identified by New York health officials had increased to 102.
"New York State and New York City continue to receive additional reports of suspected cases," the CDC noted in the advisory Thursday.
MIS-C manifests in people under age 21 who are positive for COVID-19 or have antigens or have been exposed to COVID-19 in the four weeks prior to the onset of symptoms.
The inflammatory syndrome has symptoms that mirror a condition known as Kawasaki syndrome, which, according to the CDC, 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.
"An inflammatory response in the body which could infect multiple systems, be it the kidneys, the heart, the intestines," said Dr. Marcos Mestre with Nicklaus Children's Hospital.
Dr. Mestre said MIS-C can appear three to four weeks after a COVID-19 infection, and the syndrome itself is not contagious.
"Typically you’ll see redness of the eyes, inflammation of the hands and feet, swelling of the hands and feet," said Dr. Mestre. "They could also be red, a rash that covers the body they could have swelling of the lymph node, usually in the area of the neck."
Rivkees, a former chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine, said the Department of Health was sending an advisory on the syndrome to physicians on Monday.
WPTV and The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.