10-year-old Kentucky child on ventilator due to COVID-19, Beshear says

Mandy McLaren
Louisville Courier Journal
View Comments

A 10-year-old Kentucky child is on a ventilator due to COVID-19, Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday.

"There's going to be limited information we can give you because we want to protect this child's identity and their family," Beshear said. "... But it's also important to know that this virus has reached one of our young ones."

The child, a boy, is "critically ill," said Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky's public health commissioner. 

Stack said the boy developed an inflammatory syndrome experts say is growing increasingly prevalent among children infected with COVID-19.

Children with the syndrome, Stack said, "have an extensive inflammatory response in their body," as their immune systems become "overactive" in trying to fend off the virus.

Some children may first present with respiratory problems, while others may have gastrointestinal problems, Stack said.

"Once that starts, the inflammation goes out of control and then it's the child's body overall, and they have a lot more problems," he said, adding that much about the syndrome is still unknown. 

The case is the first publicly reported in Kentucky.

But there is growing concern nationally that children — once thought to be largely spared by the virus — are growing ill and dying of COVID-19 complications. 

More:Here's what will and will not reopen in May, June and July in Kentucky, per Andy Beshear

Three children in New York have died after contracting the virus and developing the inflammatory syndrome, according to a New York Times report.

The syndrome has been likened to Kawasaki disease, a rare childhood illness that causes inflammation of blood vessels throughout the body. But doctors say the new syndrome affects the heart differently, The Times reported.

Doctors say parents should look for fever as well as a combination of any of these symptoms: abdominal pain, confusion, diarrhea, red eyes, rash, swollen hands and feet, difficulty breathing and passing out. Sometimes the abdominal pain can be so severe it mimics appendicitis.

Parents should bring their children to the hospital if they develop any symptoms because it could lead to further heart complications, even acute heart failure, Dr. Sunil Sood, a pediatric infectious disease physician based in Queens, New York, told USA Today. 

Stack said Monday that parents should "still take great comfort that children, over all, do extraordinarily well with this and don't have serious illness."

But he and Beshear said the 10-year-old's condition illustrated how important it is for parents to ensure their kids continue social distancing measures, including wearing a mask. 

For subscribers:Plasma and prayers were the key in Louisville woman's near-death battle with COVID-19

At the top of his evening briefing, Beshear had warned parents he intended to deliver news not suitable for children.

"For parents at home, especially if you've got some young kids around, find something for them to do here in the next five minutes or so," he said. " ... Sometimes we need to just be transparent and inform you about a couple of new developments that might seem kind of scary out of context. And we certainly don't want to do that to anybody's kids, including mine, if they're watching." 

 USA Today contributed to this report.

Mandy McLaren: 502-582-4525; mmclaren@courier-journal.com; Twitter: @mandy_mclaren. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/mandym.

View Comments