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Oregon doctors monitor rare adolescent heart condition with unconfirmed link to COVID vaccine

As of Monday afternoon, at least five of the six Portland-area patients had been released from the hospital in good condition, the Oregon Health Authority said.

OREGON, USA — Health officials in Oregon, Washington and California are joining a national investigation into an extremely rare heart condition, flagged as possibly linked to the COVID-19 vaccine.

The condition called myocarditis is not confirmed to be caused by any vaccine and is being tracked as a precaution. Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) noted recent cases of the condition are more prominent among adolescents and young adults, more often in males and within four days of receiving a second dose of vaccine.

On Thursday, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) asked physicians around the state to report cases of myocarditis. Six were documented in the Portland area, including among patients from both Oregon and Washington who had received a COVID vaccine.

As of Monday afternoon, the OHA said at least five of the six Portland-area patients had been released from the hospital in good condition.

Dr. Monique Bohun is a pediatric cardiologist and professor at OHSU who saw some of the local cases in adolescents. She said the rare condition can affect kids and teenagers regardless of vaccine status.

"I think it's still safe to get the COVID vaccine," she said.

Bohun noted myocarditis can be serious, but so far, all local cases have been mild.

"One may have chest pain or shortness of breath, but we haven't noticed significant changes in heart function," Bohun explained.

"Patients weren't needing supplemental oxygen, they weren't needing blood pressure support," added Dr. Paul Cieslak with the Oregon Health Authority.

Cieslak said no evidence so far proves correlation between a COVID vaccine and myocarditis, so tracking cases is precaution.

Doctors nationally have not indicated myocarditis numbers are higher than normal, either.

"It's worth recalling that COVID-19 itself has been associated with myocarditis," Cieslak said. "We have to ask ourselves is that...worse than getting COVID-19?"

He added that some children react severely to COVID-19, developing multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which can also affect the heart and other organs.

Cieslak said as COVID-19 and the variant first identified in the UK continue circulation in Oregon, it's important for everyone who's eligible to get the vaccine.

"The only way I know how to reassure people is to be transparent about what we're seeing," he said. "With hundreds of millions of doses having been given, they're proving to be pretty darn safe."

Bohun added people with chest pain and heart concerns should seek assessment from their primary care doctor.

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