Parents across the nation are watching their children closely for a rare syndrome linked to COVID-19.
Nearly 4.2 million young people in the United States have had Covid-19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Relatively small percentages have been hospitalized for initial infections or developed a condition called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) that can emerge several weeks later. Doctors expect considerably more will experience long Covid.
Now health experts across the globe are warning that parents should look for symptoms of MIS-C. However, even the medical professionals at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have been struggling to properly diagnose MIS-C.
They are struggling to identify the symptoms, which include rash, fever, as well as gastrointestinal distress. As any parent knows, these symptoms are common for many childhood illnesses.
MIS-C is a rare but serious disease found in children and adolescents that typically becomes evident weeks after the onset of COVID-19. The first case of MIS-C was discovered on April 2020.
Researchers say it can commonly lead to vascular complications and heart problems, but rarely death. Typical signs of MIS-C include trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest that doesn’t go away, and severe abdominal pain.
Laura Vella, first author of the study and attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at CHOP, said that while children with MIS-C have very high amounts of immune system activation, often at the level seen in the most severely ill adults, “fortunately, the therapies we give in MIS-C typically lead to decreased immune activation and clinical improvement, often within days.”
More work will need to be done to understand why the immune system is activated in MIS-C and how it can be diagnosed and treated earlier, she said.
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 surge of the delta variant of the coronavirus — are 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 last month 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.
According to AWM, the authors of the study published their findings in the Open Forum Infectious Disease journal on February 16, 2021, which means it is breaking research.
“Rash is a common feature of the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a post-infectious hyperinflammatory disease associated with prior SARS-CoV- 2 infections. Because the differential diagnosis of fever and rash in children is broad, understanding the clinical characteristics of MIS-C may assist with diagnosis. Here we describe the cutaneous findings observed in a series of children with MIS-C-associated rash.”
It has been months since the world first learned about MIS-C, and thankfully these scientists from Philadelphia have given us more information. This can help us keep the children in our life safer than they were before.