Since late August, there has been a 13% increase in reports of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite the fact that MIS-C is considered rare, doctors at a handful of children’s hospitals across the country say they are still treating more MIS-C cases than they were earlier in the year.
Scientists still don’t know much about a rare and severe COVID-19 complication that affects children, but they do know that when Covid-19 cases increase in a given area, MIS-C cases typically increase as well.
‘There Has Definitely Been an Uptick’
According to Dr. Amy Edwards, an infectious disease specialist at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, they had a nice long break from those cases over the summer and even into the fall, where we could get the occasional MIS-C case here and there.
Still, there has been an uptick in the last three or four weeks. And she expected it to continue for the next few weeks.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 5,217 reported cases as of October 4. At least 46 children have died due to MIS-C, representing a more than 12% increase over the previous month and one of the most significant increases this year.
Children are much less likely than adults to be hospitalized or die as a result of Covid-19. More than 5.9 million children have been diagnosed with Covid-19, but MIS-C cases account for a tiny fraction of all cases identified in children (far less than 1%).
Doctors are unsure what causes MIS-C. Children frequently have Covid-19 first, but this is not always the case. For the few children who do develop MIS-C, the condition appears to inflame various body parts and can be severe. As per CDC, parents or caregivers should contact a doctor right away if a child has a fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, or unusual tiredness.
According to Dr. Roberta DeBiasi, chief of the Division of Pediatric Diseases at Children’s National in Washington, DC, the increase in cases began just last week. This surge of new MIS-C cases hasn’t been as significant as two earlier this year when they saw up to 60 MIS-C patients. So far, they’ve had about 18 MIS-C patients in this wave.
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According to Dr. Sam Dominguez, a pediatric disease expert at Children’s Hospital Colorado, the hospital saw “significantly” more MIS-C cases in September than in previous months. However, he claims that the rates are not as high as those in December 2020 and January 2021.
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta also reported an increase in MIS-C cases in late September, roughly nine weeks after the area experienced a spike in cases. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has treated 58 children with MIS-C in the last four weeks, accounting for nearly 20% of all MIS-C patients treated so far.
However, Jennifer Burkhardt, a hospital spokesperson, says MIS-C is still considered rare. It has happened in less than 5% of the nearly 7,400 children they have treated for Covid-19.
According to Burkhardt, the hospital strongly recommends that everyone eligible receive the vaccine to prevent MIS-C and Covid-19. Georgia’s vaccination rate is significantly lower than the national average. While the CDC reports that more than 56% of the US population is fully vaccinated, the Georgia Department of Health reports that only 48% of Georgia’s eligible population and 46% of Georgia’s teens are fully vaccinated.
The increase in cases has not been felt equally across the country. According to Dr. Bill Muller, an infectious disease specialist at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, regions with smaller spikes in Covid-19 cases, such as Chicago, do not report an increase in MIS-C.
“We did see a surge of Covid-19 cases with Delta, including increased hospitalizations, but it wasn’t anywhere near what the South had,” Muller said.
The children who appear to be most vulnerable to MIS-C seem to share similar demographic characteristics. According to the CDC, most reported MIS-C cases were among children and adolescents aged 5 to 13, with an average age of about 9.
More than half of the patients, 59 percent, were men. Children of color have been disproportionately affected by MIS-C. According to the most recent CDC update, 61 percent of reported cases are in Latino or non-Hispanic Black children.
Doctors say this is why vaccines are critical, even for small children who are not eligible. Adults in their immediate vicinity who are capable will assist in reducing the community’s caseload. If the number of Covid-19 cases is reduced, the likelihood of children developing MIS-C is significantly reduced.
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