Rare but severe illness striking some children with COVID-19

Parents are being told to look out for the symptoms of a rare, but serious disease that is affecting some children who are infected with COVID-19.

Doctors call it MIS-C, multi-inflammatory syndrome in children.

“A lot of different organs and systems in the body can be effected and sometimes very seriously,” said Dr. Bud Wiedermann, an infectious diseases physician at Children’s National Hospital in D.C. “There are many things — heart, the blood system, lungs, kidneys — you name it, anything like that.”

Wiedermann took part in a Friday presentation on Children’s National’s Facebook page to alert parents about MIS-C. Wiedermann said there have been thousands of cases nationwide since April 2020, with 150 cases at Children’s Hospitals in that same timeframe.

The number of MIS-C cases has increased with the surge in the number of virus cases. But Wiedermann said recent MIS-C patients have had particularly severe symptoms.

“We’re still looking at this, but for some reason, with these latest surges that we’re seeing in MIS-C, in December, January and February, here, the kids seem to be sicker, so we’re having actually a higher rate needing to be admitted to the intensive care unit,” Wiedermann said.

“We’re hoping that as the number of [COVID-19] cases are going down … we expect to see the MIS-C cases go down, but there’s a lag of a month or two before we start to see that happen.”

The disease has been striking children up to the middle school ages infected by COVID, even those with minor symptoms or no symptoms at all. The onset of MIS-C can come weeks later, when the child’s immune system has a hyper response to the infection.

So how would a parent know if their child, without COVID symptoms, suddenly is stricken by MIS-C?

“If parents see children with a fever that’s lasting a few days, often associated with belly pain, vomiting [or] diarrhea, those are signs they should call the pediatrician,” said Dr. Ellie Hamburger, the Medical Director for the Pediatric Health Network at Children’s National.

Besides fever and gastrointestinal illness, Wiedermann said other potential symptoms of MIS-C include skin rash, blood shot eyes, dizziness, fatigue, sore throat, swollen lymph glands in the neck and swollen hands and feet.

Hamburger said the disease is “scary, but it’s rare” and the best thing that parents can do is be aware of the symptoms.

Although the children have been very ill, there have been no deaths from MIS-C at Children’s Hospital.

There are a number of effective treatments, “but we still don’t know what the best treatments are, or the best combination is,” Wiedermann said.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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