The Delta variant is rapidly spreading among mostly unvaccinated people in the United States, and this more severe strain is impacting children in greater numbers. Reuters reports that the number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States hit a record high of just over 1,900 on Saturday, and the CDC reports that this is leading to increased cases of the deadly Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome.
The syndrome affects different organ systems. Symptoms have been described as mimicking Kawasaki disease and toxic shock. They have included persistent fever, low blood pressure, swollen feet, pink eye, and rashes. Gastrointestinal symptoms have frequently been reported, including abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. The children’s lab values for inflammatory markers have been elevated, and some have had inflamed arteries in their hearts.
The delta variant now represents about 97% of cases in the US. Studies suggest it has a shorter incubation period (three to five days) and may result in higher viral loads, which could explain its increased transmissibility. Children currently make up about 2.4% of the nation’s COVID-19 hospitalizations. This is in part because kids under 12 are not eligible to receive the vaccine, leaving them more vulnerable if they are surrounded by unvaccinated people in their family, school, or local community.
This, in turn, leaves them vulnerable to getting Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome as a result.
CDC – Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome
Last year, Parentology reported on the first cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome. At the time considered a mysterious syndrome, it caused medical experts to rapidly change their belief that children were relatively safe from the devastation of COVID-19.
The CDC advises healthcare providers to report cases that fit the criteria of the syndrome, including:
- Fever of 100.4 degrees F (38 C) that lasts 24 hours or longer
- Laboratory evidence of inflammation
- Illness requiring hospitalization
- Involvement of at least two organ systems, including cardiac, renal, respiratory, hematologic, gastrointestinal, dermatologic or neurological
The alert also identifies specific lab values to take into consideration.
Parents are encouraged to contact their child’s healthcare provider if their child experiences severe abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting, rapid heart rate, rashes, changes in skin color, confusion, or unusual sleepiness. Although respiratory symptoms have been a hallmark of COVID-19 patients, there have been children diagnosed with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome who did not experience respiratory symptoms.
Some children who presented with the symptoms of the syndrome have tested negative for COVID-19; however, the CDC alert includes as part of their reporting criteria, a positive test for the virus or exposure to COVID-19 within the four weeks prior to when symptoms of the syndrome began. Although it has been seen in children as young as two and up to fifteen, the CDC is directing healthcare providers to report cases of anyone under the age of twenty-one.
There have been reports of children coming down with the syndrome up to six weeks after recovering from COVID-19.
Why It Happens
One theory about what causes the syndrome is the fact that children’s immune systems are still developing, and they go into a hyperactive response to fight the virus. While the syndrome has been described as being similar to Kawasaki Disease or Toxic Shock, it is a different and unique illness.
When the CDC issued the health advisory on May 14, there had been 102 cases reported in New York state, with three deaths being attributed to it. Cases have been reported from other states as well as other countries.
Although the syndrome has been receiving a great deal of attention, the American Academy of Pediatrics website for parents, Healthy Children, reminds parents that this syndrome is very rare.
The CDC has announced a treatment for the sickness, alternatively referred to as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C), or simply the “inflammatory syndrome.” According to the CDC, doctors have reported success in treating the illness with immunotherapy and steroids in order to lessen the active immune response.
The announcement mentioned the case of 12-year-old Juliet Daly of Jefferson, Louisiana. Daly suffered cardiac arrest as a result of MIS-C before being revived and spending four days on a ventilator. Now, her doctors say that immunotherapy and steroid treatment helped save her life. She was reportedly released from the hospital with no signs of permanent cardiac damage, reports Today.
Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome CDC — Sources
TOP IMAGE: COURTESY OCHSNER HEALTH
CDC – Delta Varient Information
CDC – Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) Associated with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Healthy Children – COVID-19 and Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome
PBS – Key moments from the Senate’s coronavirus hearing with top health officials