Trip #6! Rockets are going to state!

Unity football head coach Scott Hamilton celebrates with players and fans after his 2021 Rocket team defeated visiting Mt. Carmel High School on Saturday at Hicks Field on Saturday. Unity prevailed in the seesaw battle to advance to the state title game after defeating the Golden Aces, 28-21. Heading to the Class 3A championship game, the Rockets will take their 17-game win streak to DeKalb to face the Byron Tigers who upset IC Catholic with a stunning fourth-quarter 15-14 comeback.

Follow the link to see more photos from the semifinal game.

Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Turkey Tournament All-Tourney Team

Toyota of Danville Turkey Tournament all-tournament team
Members of the first-ever Toyota of Danville Turkey Tournament all-tournament team (left to right) Peyton Jones (St. Joseph-Ogden), Kennedi Ramshaw (Centennial), Gabrielle Mboyo-Meta (Urbana), Taylor Wells (SJO), Caroline Smith (Tri-County), Josie Armstrong (Tri-County), Ella Armstrong (SJO) and Bella Dudley (Tri-County) pose for a photo during the tournament awards ceremony on Thursday. Dudley was named the tournament MVP. St. Joseph-Ogden won the inaugural tournament title going 3-0 against the Tri-County Lady Titans, Urbana Tigers and the Chargers from Centennial High School.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Spartans win first annual Toyota of Danville Turkey Tournament

St. Joseph-Ogden High School girls basketball players celebrate with their tournament championship title Thursday night in the high school Main Gym. The Spartans ran the table defeating Urbana High School, Tri-County and Champaign Centennial at the three-day holiday tournament, sponsored by Toyota of Danville, to win the very first girls' holiday basketball tournament held at SJO. More photos and game recaps coming soon.
PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Miller leads Unity over Monticello at Tip-off

Gibson City -- Katey Moore went 2-for-2 from the free-throw line and had five rebounds for the Rockets in their pool game against Monticello at the Lady Falcon/Bunnie Tip-Off Classic. Unity beat the Sages 37-28 in their first meeting of the 2021 season. More also led the team in steals with four to her name.

Starter Lauren Miller led all scorers with a game-high nine points.

Taylor Henry also delivered five rebounds to the Rockets' cause and came up with three steals. She finished the game with five points. Meanwhile, Maddie Reed hit two second-quarter treys to help send the Rockets into the locker room tied at the break. Reed finished the game with her six points along with four boards and three assists.

Starting guard Erika Steinman had one 3-pointer and capped the night with seven points. Raegan Stringer came off the bench to chip in four points in the second half.

Hannah Swanson led Monticello on the scoreboard with eight points. Renni Fultz added another seven points in the nine-point loss.

Box Score

Unity 37 - Monticello 28

Unity -
Miller 4-1-9, Steinman 7-0-7, Stringer 2-0-4, Moore 2-2-6, Reed 6-0-6, Henry 1-3-5.
Totals: 22-6-37

Monticello -
Swanson 2-4-8, Fultz 3-1-7, Hicks 1-1-3, Stiverson 3-0-6, Burger 2-0-4.
Totals: 11-6-28

Photo of the Day - November 18, 2021

Taking her best shot

Spartans Ashlyn Lannert takes a shot over Tigers' Gabrielle Mboyo-Meta during the first half of their Toyota of Danville Turkey Tournament game on Monday. St. Joseph-Ogden defeated Urbana, 55-8. Both teams are in action again tonight at St. Joseph-Ogden High School. The Tigers (0-2) open the last evening of tournament play against 1-1 Tri-County at 6pm. SJO (2-0) squares off against the Chargers of Centennial High School 1-1 at 7:30pm. Follow this link to see more photos from Monday night's game in the PhotoNews Media photo vault.
PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

A healthy snack option, try Apple Nachos this week

Family Features - No matter how busy your schedule gets, it’s important to take time to nurture your physical and mental health and well-being. With busy work, school and sports schedules underway, it is good to remember to take time to cook and eat together with loved ones.

In fact, research from the "Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health" shows regular family meals make it more likely kids and adults will eat more fruits and vegetables.

Photo provided

Making healthy choices, including eating fruits, like those in Apple Nachos, and vegetables have also been linked to greater happiness, according to research published in "Canadian Family Physician," and can help you through the transition back to school, the office, or wherever your routine takes you. Pairing a healthy diet with other science-backed tips and recipes from the American Heart Association’s Healthy for Good initiative, supported by Kroger Health, can help you and your family feel your best.

Apple Nachos are a delicious dessert any time of the year. With tart apples covered in caramel and nut seeds make a delicious snack or side dish on game day or movie night.

For more free recipes and more health tips, follow this link to

Apple Nachos

Recipe courtesy of the American Heart Association’s Healthy for Good initiative

  • 1/3 cup dried unsweetened cranberries or raisins
  • 1/4 cup sliced unsalted almonds
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted shelled sunflower seeds
  • 3 medium green or red apples, cored and thinly sliced into 12 wedges each, divided
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup smooth low-sodium peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Servings: 6

    In a small bowl, stir cranberries, almonds and sunflower seeds.

    Layer 18 apple wedges on a large plate or platter. Sprinkle with lemon juice to keep apples from browning.

    In a small microwaveable bowl, microwave water on high for two minutes, or until boiling. Add peanut butter and honey, stirring until the mixture is smooth.

    Using a spoon, drizzle half of the peanut butter mixture over apple wedges. Sprinkle with half cranberry mixture. Layer remaining apples over cranberry mixture. Drizzle with the remaining peanut butter mixture. Then sprinkle the remaining cranberry mixture over top.

    Nutritional information per serving: 167 calories; 7.5 g total fat; 1 g saturated fat; 0 g trans fat; 2.5 g polyunsaturated fat; 3.5 g monounsaturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 66 mg sodium; 22 g carbohydrates; 4 g fiber; 15 g sugar; 4 g protein.

    Photo of the Day - November 17, 2021

    Out of reach

    Nat Nosler (left) and a Unity teammate help break up a Williamsburg pass play last Saturday. The Rockets, who beat the Bullets 28-7, will play their fourth and final playoff game at Hicks Field on Saturday at 2pm against Mt. Carmel. The winner advances to the Class 3A title game against the winner of the other semifinal game between Byron and IC Catholic. See more photos from Unity's quarterfinal game in the PhotoNews photo vault.
    PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

    Recent study notes stroke survivors are less likely to quit smoking

    Cancer survivors are more like to quit as part of their recovery

    Photo courtesty American Heart Association

    Stroke survivors were more likely to continue cigarette smoking than cancer survivors, raising the risk that they will have more health problems or die from a subsequent stroke or heart disease, according to new research published today in Stroke, a journal of the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association.

    "The motivation for this study was the National Cancer Institute (NCI)’s Moonshot initiative that includes smoking cessation among people with cancer. We were curious to understand smoking among people with stroke and cardiovascular disease," said Neal Parikh, M.D., M.S., lead author of the study and a neurologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City. "In part to assess whether a similar program is necessary for stroke survivors, our team compared smoking cessation rates between stroke survivors and cancer survivors."

    The investigators analyzed data collected between 2013 and 2019 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a national health survey that collects information regarding chronic health conditions and health-related behaviors annually.

    Researchers analyzed data from 74,400 respondents who reported having a prior stroke and a history of smoking (median age of 68 years; 45% women; 70% non-Hispanic white), and 155,693 respondents who identified as cancer survivors with a history of smoking (median age of 69 years; 56% women; 81% non-Hispanic white). Previous smoker status was defined as having smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime.

    After adjusting for demographic factors and the presence of smoking-related medical conditions, researchers found that:

  • Stroke survivors were found to be 28% less likely to have quit smoking compared to people with cancer.
  • 61% of stroke survivors reported that they had quit smoking.
  • Stroke survivors under the age of 60 were far less likely to have quit smoking (43%) compared to stroke survivors ages 60 and older (75%).
  • Photo courtesty American Heart Association

    "If you told a stroke neurologist that 40% of their patients don’t have their blood pressure controlled or weren’t taking their aspirin or their cholesterol-lowering medication, I think they would be very disappointed,” said Parikh, who is also an assistant professor of neurology in the Department of Neurology and of neuroscience in the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute at Weill Cornell Medicine. “These results indicate that we should be disappointed – more of our stroke patients need to quit smoking. We can and should be doing a lot better in helping patients with smoking cessation after stroke."

    The researchers also found that stroke survivors who live in the Stroke Belt – 8 states in the southeastern United States with elevated stroke rates (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana) – were around 6% less likely to have quit smoking than stroke survivors in other areas of the U.S. Increasing smoking cessation is one factor than can be addressed to reduce the disproportionately high rates of strokes and stroke deaths in the Stroke Belt.

    "Important next steps are devising and testing optimal smoking cessation programs for people who have had a stroke or mini-stroke," said Parikh. "Programs for patients with stroke and cardiovascular disease should be as robust as smoking cessation programs offered to patients with cancer. At NCI-designated sites, smoking cessation programs often include a dedicated, intensive counseling program, a trained tobacco cessation specialist, and health care professionals with specific knowledge about the use of smoking cessation medications. Hospital systems could also adjust care protocols so that every stroke patient receives a consultation with a tobacco cessation specialist and is enrolled in a smoking cessation program with the option to opt out, as opposed to having to seek out a program."

    A limitation of the study is that the data in the survey was self-reported – it relied on individuals to indicate if they have ever smoked or are currently smoking. The study population is also limited because it included only people who live independently in the community, rather than those living in a nursing home or other living facility.

    Co-authors are Melvin Parasram, D.O., M.S.; Halina White, M.D.; Alexander E. Merkler, M.D., M.S.; Babak B. Navi, M.D., M.S.; and Hooman Kamel, M.D., M.S.. The study was supported by the New York State Department of Health Empire Clinical Research Investigator Program and the Florence Gould Endowment for Discovery in Stroke.

    Prep Sports Notebook: Armstrong leads SJO scoring at Turkey Tournament

    Spartans get win #2

    St. Joseph-Ogden's Ella Armstrong made all five of her free throws and drained a couple of threes to finish her second game of the season with a team-high 15 points in SJO's 43-34 win over Tri-County.

    Peyton Jones also tallied double-figure scoring finishing the night with 10 points in game #2 at the Toyota of Danville Turkey Tournament on Tuesday.

    The Titans were paced by Josie Armstrong's 15 points and Bella Dudley's 11 points.

    Both teams are back in action at Turkey Tournament with Tri-County taking on the Urbana Tigers and SJO finishing round-robin play against Champaign Centennial's Chargers.

    Prep Sports Notebook: SJO, Unity open girls basketball season with victories

    SJO wins season opener

    St. Joseph-Ogden's Abby Behrens attacks the basket while Urbana's McKenzie Sprague guards her during their Toyota of Danville Turkey Tournament game on Monday. The tournament opener was also the first game of the season for both teams. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

    St. Joseph, IL - Ashlyn Lannert scored 11 points to lead the Spartans in their 55-8 win over the Urbana Tigers at the First Annual Toyota of Danville Turkey Tournament at St. Joseph-Ogden High School on Monday. Payton Jacob added another 10 points while Taylor Wells hit three second-quarter field goals and one in the first to start the season off with eight points in the season opener.

    The Tigers' leading scorer was junior Gabrielle Mboyo-Meta with four free throws. Destiny Barber, who hit the team's only field goal, finished with two points. Mc Kenzie Sprague and Zineria Edwards each made one free throw to round out Urbana's scoring effort.

    St. Joseph-Ogden takes Tri-County on Tuesday, while Urbana will face Big 12 rival Centennial on day 2 of the tournament.

    Henry starts 2021-22 season with a double-double

    Fisher, IL - Unity cruised to a 52-22 win behind Taylor Henry, who delivered an 18 points, 11 rebound performance in Unity's first game of the season over at the Lady Falcon/Bunnie Tip-Off Classic on Monday. The senior scored all by one of her points in the second and third quarters against Fisher.

    Starting at forward, Katey Moore scored nine points in the first quarter and added two more in the third period to finish with 11 points and seven boards.

    Unity football players earn All-State recognition

    Wide receiver Dillon Rutledge and defensive lineman Austin McDaniel were named to the 2021 IHSFCA Class 3A All-State team.

    The pair will be in action again this Saturday in Unity's home semifinal against Mt. Carmel. Kick-off is at 2pm.

    Photo of the Day - November 16, 2021

    Urbana returns to the hardcourt
    Under the watchful eyes referee Mark Brooks behind her, Tigers' junior Gabrielle Mboyo-Meta dribbles the ball down the court looking for a way around St. Joseph-Ogden's Kaytlyn Baker during the team's first game of the season. After four quarters, Urbana fell to the host Spartans at the Toyota of Danville Turkey Tournament, 55-8.
    Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

    Watch out for higher heating bills this winter

    Snowy day at home
    Photo: Kelly L/Pexels
    5 ways to keep your home cozy all winter long

    (StatePoint) - According to a government agency in the U.S. Federal Statistical System, heating bills for homes that use natural gas could be significantly higher this winter – perhaps by as much as 50%.

    “We expect that households across the United States will spend more on energy this winter compared with the past several winters because of these higher energy prices and because we assume a slightly colder winter than last year in much of the United States,” the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in their report last month.

    According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, price models predict this winter could be the most expensive one since 2008-09 for homes heated with natural gas. With natural gas prices expected to skyrocket by 30%, some users could expect to pay an average of $746 this winter, while those who get heat from electric sources could pay up to $1,268.

    Why are prices going up?

    The reason for the anticipated spike in energy prices is that fuel demand has shot up from recent lows faster than producers have increased supply. Energy prices dropped considerably last winter due to the sharp drop in demand thanks to the pandemic. The agency points out that prices have since rebounded and in some cases have reached multi-year highs thanks to both the increase in demand and the ongoing economic recovery.

    The other factor affecting prices is the weather. Based on recent climate trends, colder temperatures are expected, which will not only boosts the energy your home needs to stay comfortable but quickly raises demand for those resources as well. Dwellers will be stuck burning more fuel to keep warm as well as paying more for it.

    Weatherizing your home or apartment to ensure it stays comfortable during the long winter season is a great way to help control possible increased costs on your utility bills. Here are five easy ways to keep your home cozy all winter long.

    1. Maximize Heating Options
    Unpredictable weather can cause outages, so it’s best to prepare with alternative ways to heat your home. A log fireplace is wonderful, but for those without one, it may be best to invest in a gas heating alternative, like an individual heater or small generator.

    2. Temperature Control
    Bringing those utility bills down means keeping the warm air inside. Shifts in temperature can cause wood to expand or contract, creating small cracks or leaks which need to be filled. Duck Brand Foam Weatherstrip Seals form the perfect barrier from drafts with self-adhesive foam strips to ensure utility bills remain low with minimum effort and maximum savings. These heavy-duty strips also provide protection year-round by blocking dust, pollen and insects.

    3. Swap Your Furnace Filter
    Trapped dust and dirt in your furnace filter can cause low airflow and limit your furnace’s ability to properly function when you need it most. This can unnecessarily raise the temperature and cause your energy bills to skyrocket. A simple filter change on your furnace and even air conditioning units as often as once a month can help maintain excellent airflow.

    4. Create a Barrier in the Garage
    While many homeowners concentrate on preventing drafts by their front door; they often forget about the largest opening in their house – the garage. Protect against snow, water and cool winter air from entering your garage with a Duck Brand Garage Bottom Seal. This heavy-duty, waterproof rubber seal won’t freeze or crack, and creates a tight, protective border all year long.

    5. Cover Exterior Access Locations
    Built-in pet doors and mail slots often go overlooked. Lower your energy bill by covering those spaces and opt for alternative options when taking out your pets and receiving mail.

    For more information, visit

    Staying prepared for any shift in weather is always something homeowners should prioritize. With some quick tricks and the right products on hand, weatherizing your home doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive to keep you and your family warm.

    What is the cause of the Covid-related inflammation in children?

    Throughout the pandemic, MIS-C has followed a predictable pattern, sending waves of children to the hospital
    Health News on The Sentinel

    By Liz Szabo
    Kaiser Health News

    Like most other kids with covid, Dante and Michael DeMaino seemed to have no serious symptoms.

    Infected in mid-February, both lost their senses of taste and smell. Dante, 9, had a low-grade fever for a day or so. Michael, 13, had a "tickle in his throat," said their mother, Michele DeMaino, of Danvers, Massachusetts.

    At a follow-up appointment, "the pediatrician checked their hearts, their lungs, and everything sounded perfect," DeMaino said.

    Then, in late March, Dante developed another fever. After examining him, Dante’s doctor said his illness was likely "nothing to worry about" but told DeMaino to take him to the emergency room if his fever climbed above 104.

    Two days later, Dante remained feverish, with a headache, and began throwing up. His mother took him to the ER, where his fever spiked to 104.5. In the hospital, Dante’s eyes became puffy, his eyelids turned red, his hands began to swell and a bright red rash spread across his body.

    Hospital staffers diagnosed Dante with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a rare but life-threatening complication of covid-19 in which a hyperactive immune system attacks a child’s body. Symptoms — fever, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, bloodshot eyes, rash and dizziness — typically appear two to six weeks after what is usually a mild or even asymptomatic infection.

    More than 5,200 of the 6.2 million U.S. children diagnosed with covid have developed MIS-C. About 80% of MIS-C patients are treated in intensive care units, 20% require mechanical ventilation, and 46 have died.

    Throughout the pandemic, MIS-C has followed a predictable pattern, sending waves of children to the hospital about a month after a covid surge. Pediatric intensive care units — which treated thousands of young patients during the late-summer delta surge — are now struggling to save the latest round of extremely sick children.

    The South has been hit especially hard. At the Medical University of South Carolina Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital, for example, doctors in September treated 37 children with covid and nine with MIS-C — the highest monthly totals since the pandemic began.

    Doctors have no way to prevent MIS-C, because they still don’t know exactly what causes it, said Dr. Michael Chang, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. All doctors can do is urge parents to vaccinate eligible children and surround younger children with vaccinated people.

    Given the massive scale of the pandemic, scientists around the world are now searching for answers.

    Although most children who develop MIS-C were previously healthy, 80% develop heart complications. Dante’s coronary arteries became dilated, making it harder for his heart to pump blood and deliver nutrients to his organs. If not treated quickly, a child could go into shock. Some patients develop heart rhythm abnormalities or aneurysms, in which artery walls balloon out and threaten to burst.

    "It was traumatic," DeMaino said. "I stayed with him at the hospital the whole time."

    Such stories raise important questions about what causes MIS-C.

    "It’s the same virus and the same family, so why does one child get MIS-C and the other doesn’t?" asked Dr. Natasha Halasa of the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation.

    Doctors have gotten better at diagnosing and treating MIS-C; the mortality rate has fallen from 2.4% to 0.7% since the beginning of the pandemic. Adults also can develop a post-covid inflammatory syndrome, called MIS-A; it’s even rarer than MIS-C, with a mortality rate seven times as high as that seen in children.

    Although MIS-C is new, doctors can treat it with decades-old therapies used for Kawasaki disease, a pediatric syndrome that also causes systemic inflammation. Although scientists have never identified the cause of Kawasaki disease, many suspect it develops after an infection.

    Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and other institutions are looking for clues in children’s genes.

    In a July study, the researchers identified rare genetic variants in three of 18 children studied. Significantly, the genes are all involved in "removing the brakes" from the immune system, which could contribute to the hyperinflammation seen in MIS-C, said Dr. Janet Chou, section chief of clinical immunology at Boston Children’s, who led the study.

    Chou acknowledges that her study — which found genetic variants in just 17% of patients — doesn’t solve the puzzle. And it raises new questions: If these children are genetically susceptible to immune problems, why didn’t they become seriously ill from earlier childhood infections?

    Some researchers say the increased rates of MIS-C among racial and ethnic minorities around the world — in the United States, France and the United Kingdom — must be driven by genetics.

    Others note that rates of MIS-C mirror the higher covid rates in these communities, which have been driven by socioeconomic factors such as  high-risk working and living conditions.

    "I don’t know why some kids get this and some don’t," said Dr. Dusan Bogunovic, a researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai who has studied antibody responses in MIS-C. "Is it due to genetics or environmental exposure? The truth may lie somewhere in between."

    A Hidden Enemy and a Leaky Gut

    Most children with MIS-C test negative for covid, suggesting that the body has already cleared the novel coronavirus from the nose and upper airways.

    That led doctors to assume MIS-C was a "postinfectious" disease, developing after “the virus has completely gone away," said Dr. Hamid Bassiri, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist and co-director of the immune dysregulation program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

    Now, however, "there is emerging evidence that perhaps that is not the case," Bassiri said.

    Even if the virus has disappeared from a child’s nose, it could be lurking — and shedding — elsewhere in the body, Chou said. That might explain why symptoms occur so long after a child’s initial infection.

    Dr. Lael Yonker noticed that children with MIS-C are far more likely to develop gastrointestinal symptoms — such as stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting — than the breathing problems often seen in acute covid.

    In some children with MIS-C, abdominal pain has been so severe that doctors misdiagnosed them with appendicitis; some actually underwent surgery before their doctors realized the true source of their pain.

    Yonker, a pediatric pulmonologist at Boston’s MassGeneral Hospital for Children, recently found evidence that the source of those symptoms could be the coronavirus, which can survive in the gut for weeks after it disappears from the nasal passages, Yonker said.

    In a May study in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, Yonker and her colleagues showed that more than half of patients with MIS-C had genetic material — called RNA — from the coronavirus in their stool.

    The body breaks down viral RNA very quickly, Chou said, so it’s unlikely that genetic material from a covid infection would still be found in a child’s stool one month later. If it is, it’s most likely because the coronavirus has set up shop inside an organ, such as the gut.

    While the coronavirus may thrive in our gut, it’s a terrible houseguest.

    In some children, the virus irritates the intestinal lining, creating microscopic gaps that allow viral particles to escape into the bloodstream, Yonker said.

    Blood tests in children with MIS-C found that they had a high level of the coronavirus spike antigen — an important protein that allows the virus to enter human cells. Scientists have devoted more time to studying the spike antigen than any other part of the virus; it’s the target of covid vaccines, as well as antibodies made naturally during infection.

    "We don’t see live virus replicating in the blood," Yonker said. "But spike proteins are breaking off and leaking into the blood."

    Viral particles in the blood could cause problems far beyond upset stomachs, Yonker said. It’s possible they stimulate the immune system into overdrive.

    In her study, Yonker describes treating a critically ill 17-month-old boy who grew sicker despite standard treatments. She received regulatory permission to treat him with an experimental drug, larazotide, designed to heal leaky guts. It worked.

    Yonker prescribed larazotide for four other children, including Dante, who also received a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. He got better.

    But most kids with MIS-C get better, even without experimental drugs. Without a comparison group, there’s no way to know if larazotide really works. That’s why Yonker is enrolling 20 children in a small randomized clinical trial of larazotide, which will provide stronger evidence.

    Rogue Soldiers

    Dr. Moshe Arditi has also drawn connections between children’s symptoms and what might be causing them.

    Although the first doctors to treat MIS-C compared it to Kawasaki disease — which also causes red eyes, rashes and high fevers — Arditi notes that MIS-C more closely resembles toxic shock syndrome, a life-threatening condition caused by particular types of strep or staph bacteria releasing toxins into the blood. Both syndromes cause high fever, gastrointestinal distress, heart muscle dysfunction, plummeting blood pressure and neurological symptoms, such as headache and confusion.

    Toxic shock can occur after childbirth or a wound infection, although the best-known cases occurred in the 1970s and ’80s in women who used a type of tampon no longer in use.

    Toxins released by these bacteria can trigger a massive overreaction from key immune system fighters called T cells, which coordinate the immune system’s response, said Arditi, director of the pediatric infectious diseases division at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

    T cells are tremendously powerful, so the body normally activates them in precise and controlled ways, Bassiri said. One of the most important lessons T cells need to learn is to target specific bad guys and leave civilians alone. In fact, a healthy immune system normally destroys many T cells that can’t distinguish between germs and healthy tissue in order to prevent autoimmune disease.

    In a typical response to a foreign substance — known as an antigen — the immune system activates only about 0.01% of all T cells, Arditi said.

    Toxins produced by certain viruses and the bacteria that cause toxic shock, however, contain "superantigens," which bypass the body’s normal safeguards and attach directly to T cells. That allows superantigens to activate 20% to 30% of T cells at once, generating a dangerous swarm of white blood cells and inflammatory proteins called cytokines, Arditi said.

    This massive inflammatory response causes damage throughout the body, from the heart to the blood vessels to the kidneys.

    Although multiple studies have found that children with MIS-C have fewer total T cells than normal, Arditi’s team has found an explosive increase in a subtype of T cells capable of interacting with a superantigen.

    Several independent research groups — including researchers at Yale School of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health and France’s University of Lyon — have confirmed Arditi’s findings, suggesting that something, most likely a superantigen, caused a huge increase in this T cell subtype.

    Although Arditi has proposed that parts of the coronavirus spike protein could act like a superantigen, other scientists say the superantigen could come from other microbes, such as bacteria.

    "People are now urgently looking for the source of the superantigen," said Dr. Carrie Lucas, an assistant professor of immunobiology at Yale, whose team has identified changes in immune cells and proteins in the blood of children with MIS-C.

    Uncertain Futures

    One month after Dante left the hospital, doctors examined his heart with an echocardiogram to see if he had lingering damage.

    To his mother’s relief, his heart had returned to normal.

    Today, Dante is an energetic 10-year-old who has resumed playing hockey and baseball, swimming and rollerblading.

    “He’s back to all these activities," said DeMaino, noting that Dante’s doctors rechecked his heart six months after his illness and will check again after a year.

    Like Dante, most other kids who survive MIS-C appear to recover fully, according to a March study in JAMA.

    Such rapid recoveries suggest that MIS-C-related cardiovascular problems result from “severe inflammation and acute stress" rather than underlying heart disease, according to the authors of the study, called Overcoming COVID-19.

    Although children who survive Kawasaki disease have a higher risk of long-term heart problems, doctors don’t know how MIS-C survivors will fare.

    The NIH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have launched several long-term trials to study young covid patients and survivors. Researchers will study children’s immune systems to uncover clues to the cause of MIS-C, check their hearts for signs of long-term damage and monitor their health over time.

    DeMaino said she remains far more worried about Dante’s health than he is.

    "He doesn’t have a care in the world," she said. “I was worried about the latest cardiology appointment, but he said, ‘Mom, I don’t have any problems breathing. I feel totally fine.’"

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