Hawaii part of pediatric Long COVID
Hawaii is being included in a National Institute of Health Longterm study of Long COVID in children and adults.
The Hawaii component of the study — which is being conducted over the next two to four years, with visits about six months apart — is being conducted by the Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children in Honolulu.
Dr. Jessica Kosut, a pediatric hospitalist at Kapi‘olani, said during a Friday livestream with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that researchers in Hawaii are studying school-age children starting at 7 and young adults up to 25, paired with a parent. She said much of the study, including a survey, saliva and blood testing can be done at home. Researchers are seeking at least 30 parent-child pairs, and it’s not necessary for all participants to have had COVID.
Kosut said the study is being conducted at 30 sites nationwide and that, nationally, researchers are hoping for 2,000 to 3,000 participants.
“The more patients we can enroll, the more information we can get,” Kosut said. “I’m really excited to have Hawaii as part of that. And through this study, I’m hoping to understand all the things that we don’t.”
Kosut defined Long COVID as a symptom or symptoms that persist beyond four weeks from when the patient had an acute case of COVID.
“We know that there are two-types of Long COVID in children. … There’s the multi-system inflammatory condition that we’re seeing four to six weeks after someone has COVID. … And then, all of the other things that fall under Long COVID, which we’ve talked about in adult patients but I’m really not sure we understand what that looks like in children. That’s a whole slew of symptoms, everything from feeling short of breath, having a prolonged cough, being more tired than usual, having difficulty sleeping, mood changes, headaches, changes in smell and taste.”
Kosut acknowledged that much of the population thinks children are less likely to contract COVID and more likely to have less severe symptoms and to recover more quickly than adults.
“For the most part, I think … children do pretty well with COVID, thankfully,” she said. “But there are children who experience more significant illness from COVID. What we have seen here is something called multi-system inflammatory syndrome of children. … And we’ve seen a fair number of patients with that condition, where they have to be hospitalized.”
According to Kosut all the patients she’s seen who were diagnosed with multi-system inflammatory syndrome, also called MIS-C, were unvaccinated.
“And that’s a significant disease where, often, children are ending up in an ICU setting,” she said.
Kosut acknowledged that —instead of having established treatment protocols for Long COVID in children or adults — at this point, physicians are treating the symptoms instead of any underlying cause.
“It’s helping people through the symptoms. And I don’t think we have a lot of options around that,” she said. “… So while we may be able to tell someone they have the symptoms of Long COVID, we may not be able to do much about it at this point — which is really hard for us to accept and, of course, for the patients and their families, as well.”
According to Kosut, the mental health challenges that have struck many adults during the novel coronavirus pandemic have affected children, as well.
“We saw a lot of … ripple effects of parents losing jobs, food insecurity, a lot of things things that I think … we’ll continue to see as we are, hopefully, coming out of this pandemic,” she explained. “And children are really really vulnerable. You know, they’re resilient and they’re tough, but they can be vulnerable to these aspects. And so we saw just an increase in our mental health crisis and we need more services for that in our schools and our communities.”
Kosut said it’s vital for researchers to collect data from Hawaii and urged those interested in signing up to get more information on the study or to sign up at recovercovid.org.
“We have a different population than the rest of the country,” she said. “And initial studies around the country talked about the impact of COVID on children … in Hispanics and Blacks. But we saw here in Hawaii that our Pacific Islanders, our Native Hawaiians are affected … but a lot of that is anecdotal. And that’s where the study will be really important in getting enrollment from all of our population — and because we have one of the highest concentration of mixed-race population in the country. I think our data is particularly important.”
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.