Eight youths from Southcentral Alaska developed a serious inflammatory syndrome after recent COVID-19 infections, including some who ended up in the pediatric intensive care unit with severe complications, according to a report released Friday from state health officials.
The condition, known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C for short, can lead to inflamed organs — including the heart, lungs, kidneys and brain, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
By the beginning of this month, there were 2,617 cases of the syndrome and 33 deaths across the U.S., Alaska health officials wrote.
“This happens to kids after COVID,” said Dr. Benjamin Westley, an infectious disease doctor in Anchorage who treated six of the eight youths and contributed to the report. “It’s weeks after COVID, where their immune systems are kind of going haywire.”
While the syndrome can be deadly, most youths get better after medical care.
The first eight reported MIS-C cases in Alaska were diagnosed among youths from the Matanuska-Susitna region and Anchorage. Of the cases, half were 4 years old or younger while three were between ages 5 and 10 and one was between 11 and 20, health officials wrote.
All eight experienced fever, inflammation and cardiac symptoms while some also experienced skin, gastrointestinal, respiratory, blood and neurologic symptoms. None of the youths had pre-existing conditions, according to the report.
The eight youths were all hospitalized, and five were taken to the pediatric intensive care unit because they were experiencing severe complications that included cardiac dysfunction, shock or aneurysm. They all survived.
Six of the eight had been exposed to a person with COVID-19 within a month of being diagnosed with MIS-C, the report states.
A child who never shows symptoms for COVID-19 could still develop MIS-C symptoms later on, Westley said. Blood tests can show that a child had been infected with the virus.
Virtually all the children had nausea or stomach discomfort, Westley said. He said if a child seems to be feeling bad for no other reason with a fever that lasts more than a day, MIS-C is important to consider — even if the child hadn’t recently tested positive for COVID-19.
While that doesn’t mean every child with a fever who throws up a single time should have multiple blood tests for MIS-C, Westley said he wants parents and doctors to be aware of the syndrome and its potential symptoms.
And if children are treated on the third or fourth day of their illness, before heart and lung problems show up, their symptoms improve rather quickly, he said.
Since cases of MIS-C have only been documented since last March, it’s hard to say whether the syndrome causes long-term side effects, but Westley said that most of the kids seem to not have lingering problems.
“It’s a very, very scary thing,” Westley said. “And it certainly can be very dangerous. But, with treatment, virtually all the kids recover and seem to probably recover all the way.”