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The South Florida Roundup

South Florida Pediatric Leaders Explain COVID-19 Risks For Kids

Daniel Reinhardt

Health officials are figuring out the COVID-19 risks for children.

At least six South Florida kids have been hospitalized this week for a rare condition that’s believed to be linked to the virus.

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Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday that restrictions are lifted for youth activities, including sports and summer camps.

He said local governments can impose stricter rules. Broward and Miami-Dade counties have said these camps will remain closed, according to the Sun Sentinel.

On the South Florida Roundup, host Tom Hudson talked about children and COVID-19 with Dr. Ronald Ford, Chief Medical Officer at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital — part of Broward’s Memorial Healthcare System — and Dr. Barry Gelman, Chief Medical Officer at Holtz Children’s Hospital — part of the Jackson Health System in Miami.

Here’s an excerpt of their conversation:

DR. RONALD FORD: We put together a team of experts from different specialties to decide on how we are going to approach patients with this. We did this several weeks ago. The consensus was that if they had this Kawasaki-like appearance to them, that we would treat them with IVIG, which is pooled antibiodies, intravenous gamma globulin, as a first-line treatment.

We had some data from the U.K. and from New York cohorts that showed some promise. There's still not enough information to know that that's going to be the answer for all patients with this. But it did show some success in patients that we had.

TOM HUDSON: Dr. Gelman, what can you share about the course of treatment that was prescribed at Holtz?

DR. BARRY GELMAN: I would agree with what Ron just said. And I think that there is a pretty good consensus nationwide, and in many parts of the world, about how we're going to approach this condition, even though we still have a lot to learn.

The consensus is that because this is an inflammatory condition, we would treat it with different anti-inflammatory medications or mechanisms to sort of tone down the immune system. We've done similar things with intravenous immunoglobulin and some small doses of corticosteroid.

Our one patient did well, and our second patient is recovering well, although that one did have significant heart disease. Both of our patients were in the intensive care unit.

Did all of those that have been treated in Holtz and DiMaggio, had they been at least exposed to COVID-19? Did they test positive for the antibodies?

GELMAN: In our case, yes.

FORD: Yes, I would say the same for our cases.

GELMAN: When any patient meets these criteria and is admitted, we will test them with a PCR. That's the polymerase chain reaction to test for the viral genetic material, to see if there's an active infection. And both of our patients actually had positive PCRs.

FORD: Curiously, ours did not test positive.

But they did test positive for the antibodies at DiMaggio?

FORD: Correct.

GELMAN: That's what's been reported. Many of them are, after the acute infection and recovering and have antibody. But some are actively infected.

What's the age range that you doctors are experiencing locally, as well as what you're hearing from colleagues in New York and overseas in Europe?

FORD: The age range is is pretty variable, especially as compared to Kawasakis and some of the other similar type of things. I believe the youngest reported case has been four months of age. But it's been reported in teenagers as well as school age children, really children of all ages.

Is this viral or bacterial in nature?

GELMAN: We don't know. And in fact, we don't even have that answer for the Kawasaki syndrome. In fact, I've been telling our our resident students here at at Holtz and at the University of Miami that back when I was a pediatric resident, there was a theory about Kawasaki syndrome being caused by rug shampoos. But that actually was debunked. We don't know what causes that syndrome, which is we believe it's a post-inflammatory syndrome, but there's no virus that's been identified.

So here, we know the virus and it seems that there's a link and it seems that it's post inflammatory. But we don't have any reason to suspect that there's a different infectious agent that's causing this syndrome above and beyond the exposure to COVID and the inflammatory condition that for some reason is triggered.

The transcript of this interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Alexander Gonzalez produces the afternoon newscasts airing during All Things Considered. He enjoys helping tell the South Florida story through audio and digital platforms. Alex is interested in a little of everything from business to culture to politics.