Dr. Kenice Ferguson-Paul. (Courtesy photo)

A Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital pediatric specialist said eleven children brought into the hospital tested positive for the coronavirus. Nine out of those eleven were African-American.

Dr. Kenice Ferguson-Paul told members of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators (TBCSL) in a virtual meeting Wednesday after- noon that taking precautions against the coronavirus is critical to keeping children safe.

“Hand-washing, social distancing and wearing masks are going to be extremely important moving forward,” Ferguson-Paul said. “Masks must be worn by children two and over.”

TBCSL Chairman G. A. Hardaway said the group was concerned about what can be expected as municipalities look toward re-opening schools.

Rep. G.A. Hardaway

“We haven’t had a focus on the children,” said Hardaway. “There are too many unknowns, so we wanted to ask the premiere children’s hospital for answers.”

Ferguson-Paul said one child had also tested positive for the Kawasaki Syndrome. It is the condition found primarily in children and infants. Three children in New York City died recently from Kawasaki. Their disease was triggered by the COVID-19 virus.

“Kawasaki isn’t new. It’s been around since the ’60s,” Ferguson-Paul said. “It is a multi-system inflammatory disease which causes inflammation all over the body. It attacks blood vessels in different organs.”

Of the 11 youngsters testing positive for COVID-19, three were hospitalized, and only one tested positive for Kawasaki. TBCSL members were told that Kawasaki is triggered by a virus, and parents should keep their children safe by making sure that they get all their vaccinations on time.

“Very rarely is Kawasaki fatal,” Ferguson-Paul said. “The main con- cern is that blood vessels in the heart suffer inflammation. When inflammation happens to arteries in the heart, the child may develop heart disease later in life.”

Of the 11 children seen at Le Bonheur, one was transported from Methodist Healthcare. The good news is that COVID-19 symptoms are very mild in children.

More than 800 children have been tested for the coronavirus. Testing is now being done on children com- ing to the hospital for treatment, procedures, and other medical concerns that have nothing to do with COVID-19.

“Initially, we were testing children who may have shown symptoms of the coronavirus,” said Sara Burnett, director of community and public relations for Le Bonheur. “But things have changed so rapidly with the CDC. We just began testing all the children who come into the hospital. Everyone gets a test.”

Legislators asked for an age breakdown of the eleven. Two were teenagers, one was a toddler, and the other children were somewhere in between, they were told.

Ferguson-Paul is a pediatric hospitalist at Le Bonheur and an assistant professor at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center. She manages the care of children while they are hospitalized.

Ferguson-Paul is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in both pediatrics in pediatric infectious diseases. She attended medical school at the University of the West Indies and completed her residency at Morehouse School of Medicine. She also completed a pediatric infectious disease fellowship at UTH- SC and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

(For expert information on COVID-19 including educational videos for kids, visit www.lebonheur. org/coronavirus.)