It’s rare, potentially fatal and new. State health leaders are tracking the spread of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, also known as MIS-C.
“MIS-C syndrome tends to follow COVID infection a few weeks later, so we can still see cases cropping up in the next few months,” said Dr. Jennifer Owensby, interim medical director of the pediatric ICU at Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital.
According to state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, the disease has affected 34 children in the state, ranging in age from 1 to 18. She says the disease has disproportionately impacted black and brown children with 41% of children being Hispanic.
“The children affected have either tested positive for active COVID-19 infection or had antibody tests that were positive indicating exposure to the virus,” Persichilli said. “Although there is still unknowns about this illness, it is believed to be an abnormal, aggressive immune response to the virus.”
“This is not a preventable syndrome, unfortunately. So it’s really not clear who is going to get it or why they are going to get,” said Owensby.
Owensby says all nine children she’s treated with MIS-C have experienced severe symptoms including cardiac arrest and organ failure.
“It’s a post infectious inflammatory syndrome where patients are actually presenting quite sick. They are presenting with heart failure, shock, severe abdominal pain, vomiting and various other illnesses. We do know this is a different disease from Kawasaki. Kawasaki you tend to see in children less than 5 exclusively, and we are seeing older kids, more middle school age,” she said.
Owensby says parents should immediately take their children to the doctor or ER if they notice symptoms like high fever, fatigue, shortness of breath, not wanting to play or walk around, and gasping for air.
“The treatment for the syndrome itself is based on anti-inflammatory therapy, things like steroids,” she said.
MIS-C may be a new threat, but Owensby stresses, like many diseases, early detection is key.