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MUSC doctors seeing ‘concerning rise’ of MIS-C cases in kids

Rare syndrome associated with COVID-19 affects children
Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 5:10 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A group of doctors at MUSC is raising alarm about what they’re calling a “concerning rise” in the number of cases of a rare but serious COVID-related illness in children.

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) usually appears one to two months after a child contracts or is exposed to COVID-19. While rare, it can lead to life-threatening and long-term impacts on children.

The latest data from the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control reports a total of 110 cases in South Carolina, including 17 in the Lowcountry. MUSC said it has treated 28 cases, including three that left children on advanced life support.

The Medical University of South Carolina pediatric providers say they are concerned about general loosening of important mitigation strategies like mask wearing in our pediatric population.

They say it is adding risk factors to the rise in MIS-C cases.

“One of the parts of MIS-C that is particularly alarming is that these are all healthy children,” said Dr. Allison Eckard, the division chief for pediatric infectious diseases at MUSC. “And so when parents say my kids can’t be affected by COVID, they forget sometimes that MIS-C really is a risk.”

With school set to let out soon, the doctors are warning parents and kids alike not to let their guards down when it comes to COVID-19.

“One of the parts of MIS-C that is particularly alarming is that these are all healthy children,” Eckard said. “And so when parents say my kids can’t be affected by COVID, they forget sometimes that MIS-C really is a risk.”

The doctors said children who show symptoms of MIS-C, including a fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, confusion or muscle aches, and may have been exposed to COVID-19 should seek medical attention immediately.

The group also expressed concern about the number of parents who have opted their children out of wearing masks in the last few weeks of school.

Since children under 12 still cannot get the COVID-19 vaccine, the group stressed those who can get it – people ages 12 and up – should do so to avoid spreading the virus to children and others who cannot be vaccinated.

“We really want to encourage parents who think that getting COVID-19 is no big deal to try to change their thinking a little bit. It is a big deal,” Eckard said. “We’re starting to also see studies that may suggest that there are long-term effects of having acute COVID even if your initial symptoms are mild.”

Eckard says the combination of an increase in cases, coupled with the fact that few children have yet to be vaccinated is dangerous to the youth of South Carolina. She warns that COVID-19 still can harm children and accompanying MIS-C could be deadly.

“New studies also continue to inform our knowledge, and other potentially harmful long term effects of COVID-19 in children and adolescents,” Eckard said. “Moreover, we have seen concerning rise in the number of cases of MIS-C, or multi system inflammatory syndrome in children. This is rare but this is a life threatening condition associated with previous COVID-19 infection.”

MUSC Director of Ambulatory Services Andrew Savage urged parents to vaccinate their children as soon as they are able.

“So masking, when you’re in large contained groups works. And hygiene works. Social distancing works. And how do we know that? Because outside of COVID-19, all the related illnesses in the last nine months have plummeted; have kept children out of this hospital through the winter months. Because these things work.” Savage said. “To me there is a vaccine that can prevent MIS-C, there’s an easy fix to this and it’s getting the [COVID-19] vaccine.”

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