Cases of Rare Inflammatory Syndrome in Kids Reported in PA – Are We Seeing It Locally?

By: Andrea Kunicky

This week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health counted 17 reports of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) throughout the state.

Dr. Zac Aldewereld

Zac Aldewereld, M.D.

Dr. Zac Aldewereld, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist and intensive care unit physician at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, answers questions about this rare condition.

What do we know about MIS-C?
MIS-C is a syndrome of excessive inflammation in children that can affect various organ systems in the body, including the heart. People began noticing an increase in cases like this in certain areas about one to two months after the peaks of COVID-19 infections. This raises concern that it is related to COVID-19, although we do not know for sure at this time. Children with this syndrome are likely to need admission to the hospital, and a subset of these will need to go to the intensive care unit. Fortunately, this syndrome appears to be very rare, and the vast majority of children who get it will recover.

Are there any confirmed cases at UPMC Children’s?
We have no confirmed cases at this time. We screen any potential cases and collaborate with the Department of Health.

What precautions is UPMC Children’s taking to identify cases of MIS-C locally?
UPMC Children’s has pulled together a team that includes specialists in infectious diseases, inflammation and cardiology, as well as pediatric intensive care unit physicians, to create guidelines to diagnose and manage this condition, based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.

Why is MIS-C so rare?
This is one of the most important points for parents to know: MIS-C appears to be very rare. Currently, there is not enough evidence to determine why it affects such a small number of children.

What are the symptoms?
Children with MIS-C can have a variety of symptoms, including:

  • – Fever
  • – Rash
  • – Vomiting
  • – Diarrhea
  • – Red eyes, with or without drainage
  • – Swollen glands
  • – Cracked lips

Should I be concerned to take my child to day care?
We still believe that the risk of severe disease from COVID-19, whether from the initial infection or from MIS-C, is extremely low for children. However, it is possible that children could transmit the virus to each other and bring it home, even if they have no symptoms. Therefore, any decision about return to daycare should be discussed with your pediatrician and based on precautions taken at the daycare, the health condition of others in the home or whom the child sees frequently and the parents’ occupations. 

What should parents do if they suspect their child has MIS-C?
Children who have this syndrome seem to have prolonged fevers and appear to be sick enough to need hospital admission. As with any illness, if parents are worried that their child is unwell or has fevers that last more than a couple of days, they should call their pediatrician for guidance or come to the emergency department at UPMC Children’s.

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