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Experts Closely Following Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C) in Children

A disease doctors have identified as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is causing concern, especially for parents of young children.

MIS-C symptoms — moderate to high fever, along with abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and rashes — appear to be similar to Kawasaki disease, a condition most often seen in infants and young children under 5. While medical experts do not yet know what causes MIS-C, data shows that many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19, or had been around someone with COVID-191.

Children across the United States have been hospitalized due to MIS-C, while cases have been seen in Europe as well. In mid-May 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged doctors to be on the lookout for cases of MIS-C in children.

As of February 2021, most cases of MIS-C have affected children ages 1-14, with few cases in children under a year old and up to age 20. A majority of reported cases have been in Hispanic and Black children. 

What is MIS-C and how is it related to COVID-19?

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), also known as pediatric mutli-system inflammatory syndrome (PMIS), is believed to be related to COVID-19, although experts are still working to understand exactly how. The timing of the uptick in MIS-C cases in children comes shortly after cases of coronavirus in the U.S. have rapidly increased.

“The timing of this unusual cluster of ill children,” says pediatric infectious disease specialist Aryeh Baer, M.D., “in the midst of the current global pandemic, raises the possibility that this may be a syndrome caused by the immune response to this new virus.”

COVID-19 in children: an emerging picture

Since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, evidence has suggested that children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. The Center for Disease Control notes that while some children and infants have fallen sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date.

“The best evidence to date, is that children rarely become critically ill from COVID-19, or from this pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome,” says Jeffrey Burns, MD, MPH, chief of Critical Care Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital. However, it’s important to adhere to the CDC’s guidelines for protecting children from COVID-19 and MIS-C.

Practicing good hygiene and avoiding close contact with others is the best way to prevent the spread. Children over the age of two should also wear a cloth face mask if they are in a public setting where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain and especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

You should always consult your doctor if concerns over the health of your children arise.

As the world’s leading expert on childhood, Save the Children is here to help. Visit Coronavirus and Kids: Resources from Save the Children for more tools and tips you can trust for parents, caregivers, teachers and all those who care about children in crisis.

[1] CDC


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