Dr. Anjali Patwardhan is a pediatric rheumatologist at the University of Missouri Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
For the past year, she has been studying COVID-19 in children. She said people probably do not understand that children can get the virus.
“It is the misconception that they do not have as many cases in children,” Patwardhan said. “That’s why people don’t take it seriously.”
She said nearly a third of the population of American children has had COVID-19.
Since the pandemic started, Patwardhan has studied nearly 1,000 children under the age of 20 for his research. She has found that the flu vaccine lowers the odds of COVID-19 symptoms.
“It does not prevent you from having COVID, but most patients who were vaccinated were less likely to be symptomatic,” Patwardhan said. “They had less serious illness and they were mostly asymptotic for those vaccinated in the same flu year.”
Recently, COVID-19 cases are declining, but she is seeing an increase in an autoimmune disease called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, known as MISC.
“This disease occurs because your own immune system, which is stimulated by the virus, the virus is gone, but your immune system continues to attack your own body,” Patwardhan said. “If you did not have symptomatic COVID when you were exposed to it, you can still get MISC.”
Patwardhan said that out of the cases she has investigated, COVID-19 has left children with long-term effects, such as heart disease and blood clots that can cause strokes.
“We have seen a number of different skin diseases due to COVID,” Patwardhan said. “Skin diseases in the sense of different kinds of rashes. I think 30 to 40% of the symptomatic children had eye diseases and 10% of the children got a particular lesion in their brain. They have hallucinated, [had] seizures and disorientation. ”
MISC is also caused by COVID, but they still do not know how long it can affect a child.
“Whether it will last in your life, I do not know the answer, because we have not been there,” Patwardhan said. “We have only known this disease in the last year.”
Patwardhan said MISC has a high mortality rate and currently does not have a cure.
“MISC is a disease where we do not know right now if you can be vaccinated,” Patwardhan said. “It’s an immune disease, and by vaccination you can touch the immunity and make that disease worse.”
While doctors continue to examine the virus, her best advice to parents is to make sure their child has received a recent flu shot.
She said the flu season starts in September and lasts through April. Even though your child has not yet had a flu shot, Patwardhan said it is still not too late.
This year more than ever, she wants parents to know the importance of getting a vaccine.
“During this period, until the last day, you need to be vaccinated,” Patwardhan said.
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