Two reports published Monday show that a pediatric inflammatory syndrome linked to Covid-19 can cause serious symptoms in children and can sometimes be deadly.
They show that 80% of patients with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) were treated in intensive care. Most recovered but four children died and more than a quarter of the children in one study were still hospitalized as of May 20.
In one report, researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed 186 cases from 26 states between March 15 and May 20. Patients were hospitalized for a median of seven days; 20% required ventilation to help them breathe, and 2% — or four patients — died. The median age of patients was 8 years old; just 7% of patients were under a year old, most of the rest were between a year old and 14, and 16% were ages 15 to 20.
Most of the children — 70% — tested positive for the infection by a test called PCR that finds direct evidence of the virus, or antibody testing, which finds evidence of past infection. The rest had been exposed to people with the virus in the past month, the researchers said.
The CDC team said the timing of the illnesses suggests “a substantial proportion of the patients in this series were infected ... at least one to two weeks before the onset of MIS-C.”
Overall, 19% were White, 25% were Black, 31% were Hispanic or Latino, and the ethnicity of 22% was unknown.
A second report by the New York State Department of Health looked at 99 children with suspected or confirmed MIS-C hospitalized between March 1 and May 10. In this study, median hospital stay was six days, and just over half the patients had evidence of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle.
Both reports, published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine, described how a majority of children with MIS-C experienced symptoms including fever and chills, elevated heart rate, gastrointestinal problems and rash.
On May 14, the CDC issued a health advisory to doctors across the country, providing an official definition of the syndrome — called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) — and telling physicians to be on the lookout.
The agency describes MIS-C as “a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.” While it is still not known precisely what causes the syndrome, most children get better with medical care, the agency adds.