Since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, a total of 11 children in Washington state have been hospitalized with a rare but serious syndrome that appears to be triggered by infection with the virus, state health officials said Friday.
The state’s first
four cases were reported
in May, and seven other children have been stricken since then, said Dr.
Marisa D’Angeli, an epidemiologist at the Washington Department of Health. The
pattern of cases roughly tracks the resurgence of infections across the state
All of the children were very sick, D’Angeli said. The
majority were in intensive care and some required mechanical ventilation. No
children have died in Washington either from regular coronavirus infections or
the associated syndrome.
Called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C, the little-understood condition can affect the heart, kidneys and gut. Symptoms include high fever, rash, swelling, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. The cause seems to be a runaway immune response that flares after the initial coronavirus infection, said Dr. John McGuire, chief of critical care at Seattle Children’s, where eight of the 11 kids were treated.
“These kids feel terrible,” he said. “They’re tired, weak, achy,
they have pretty high fevers. They feel completely wiped out.”
But the good news is that all of the children have responded
well to treatment, with no apparent long-term effects.
“We’ve been really pleased with their recovery,” McGuire
Most of Washington’s initial cases of MIS-C were in Western
Washington, where the virus took hold first. Now, most cases are being
diagnosed in Central Washington, following the recent spike of cases there, McGuire
King and Yakima counties have seen three cases each. Franklin and Snohomish counties have two cases each, and Skagit County has one. About 12 percent of Washington’s confirmed coronavirus infections — or about 7,300 cases — have been in children or teenagers.
As with adult coronavirus infections across the state, children of color have been disproportionately impacted by MIS-C, D’Angeli said. Of Washington’s confirmed cases of the syndrome, 55 percent are Hispanic, 18 percent are white, and 9 percent are each Black, Asian and American Indian or Alaska Native.
Nationally, 570 children were diagnosed with MIS-C through July
29, with 10 fatalities, according to a CDC
report published Friday.
Most kids infected with the novel coronavirus have very mild
symptoms. It’s not clear why a tiny percentage go on to develop the
inflammatory syndrome, McGuire said. The CDC report singled out obesity as the most
common underlying medical condition, but few of the kids in Washington had any
underlying health problems, he added.
McGuire and Seattle Children’s are part of a national collaboration to pool data about MIS-C in order to identify risk factors and the most effective treatments. Since cases seem to lag infection peaks by four to six weeks, McGuire said he expects to see the next wave of kids with MIS-C in states like Arizona, Texas and Florida.
He advises parents to be aware, but not worried. Some of the warning signs include a high fever that lasts for more than three days and other flu-like symptoms that seem to get progressively worse.
“This is quite uncommon,” McGuire said. “The kids who get this are sicker than even that bad case of flu.”
Right now, the best way to protect children is to stop the
spread of the virus, D’Angeli said. “We all need to do our part by washing our
hands, maintaining social distance, wearing masks and avoiding big gatherings.”