Since the beginning of the new coronavirus pandemic, a total of 11 children in Washington State have been hospitalized for a rare but severe syndrome that appears to be caused by a viral infection.
Dr. Marisa D’Angeli, an epidemiologist at the Washington Department of Health, said that the state’s first four cases were reported in May, and seven more children have been affected since then. The pattern of cases roughly tracks the recurrence of infections across the state this summer.
Dan Jili said that all the children are very sick. Most people are in intensive care and some require mechanical ventilation. In Washington, no children have died from conventional coronavirus infections or related syndromes.
Known as Childhood Multiple System Inflammatory Syndrome or MIS-C, this little-known disease affects the heart, kidneys and intestines. Symptoms include high fever, skin rash, swelling, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Dr. John McGuire, director of the intensive care unit at Seattle Children̵
“These kids feel terrible,” he said. They are tired, weak, painful, and have a high fever. They feel completely wiped out. “
But the good news is that all children respond well to treatment, with no obvious long-term effects.
“We are very satisfied with their recovery,” McGuire said.
Most of the first cases of MIS-C in Washington were in western Washington, where the virus first infected the disease. McGuire said that with the recent surge in cases in central Washington, most cases are now diagnosed in central Washington.
There were three cases each in King County and Yakima County. Franklin County and Snohomish County each have two cases, and Skagit County has one. Of the confirmed coronavirus infections in Washington, about 12% (about 7,300 cases) are children or adolescents.
D’Angeli said that like adult coronavirus infections across the state, children of color are disproportionately affected by MIS-C. Among the confirmed cases of the syndrome in Washington, Hispanics accounted for 55%, whites accounted for 18%, and blacks, Asians, and American Indians or Alaskan Natives accounted for 9%.
According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, as of July 29, 570 children across the country have been diagnosed with MIS-C, and 10 of them have died.
Most children infected with the new coronavirus have very mild symptoms. McGuire said that it is not yet clear why a small percentage will continue to develop inflammatory syndrome. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that obesity is the most common underlying disease, but children in Washington rarely have any underlying health problems, he added.
McGuire and Seattle Children’s are part of a national collaborative project to aggregate data on MIS-C in order to determine risk factors and the most effective treatments. As cases seem to delay the peak of infection by four to six weeks, McGuire said he hopes to see the next wave of children with MIS-C in Arizona, Texas and Florida.
He advises parents to pay attention but not to worry. Some warning signs include high fevers lasting more than three days and other flu-like symptoms, which seem to gradually get worse.
“This is very rare,” McGuire said. “The child with this disease is even more ill than the bad flu.”
D’Angeli said that at present, the best way to protect children is to stop the spread of the virus. “We all need to do our part by washing our hands, maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and avoiding big gatherings.”