Coronavirus

Children’s Hospital collecting data on link between COVID and deadly MIS-C in children

"She went from being really really red to having completely blue and purple feet and hands and lips. She had a really rapid heart rate, which was possibly the scariest."

A healthcare worker administers a dose of the Pfizer vaccine in Boston on Aug. 16. Allison Dinner / Bloomberg

As COVID-19 continues to spread, more children are contracting the virus and a few are ending up with a rare but serious condition. Not much is known about multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, but Boston’s own Children’s Hospital is working on collecting data for federal studies.

Sarah Fortunato shared her daughter’s experience of MIS-C with WCVB. First, her daughter spiked a fever of 103 degrees, which Fortunato couldn’t break. Eventually, she brought her daughter to the emergency room.

COVID & KIDS

“Kid’s get fevers, kids get rashes,” she said. “You never know what’s causing it. She went from being really really red to having completely blue and purple feet and hands and lips. She had a really rapid heart rate, which was possibly the scariest.”

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Weeks before, Fortunato, her husband, and their daughter had all tested positive for COVID-19, but had mild or no symptoms.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MIS-C is a “condition where different body parts become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.” The cause is unknown, but the CDC noted 98% of children with MIS-C had COVID-19, and the other 2% had been around someone who had it. 

The CDC has identified cases of MIS-C as early April 2020, which tended to show up following spikes of COVID-19 infection. As of Aug. 27, 100 to 149 cases have been reported in Massachusetts.

Though it’s rare — affecting about 11 per 100,000 people, according to JAMA — it’s more common in children. The MIS-C case rate appeared to drop after widespread vaccination, but cases continue since the most impacted population — children 6 to 11-years-old — are not eligible for vaccination. 

The CDC reported 4,661 total cases of MIS-C, and 41 related deaths, as of Aug. 27. 

Dr. Adrienne Randolph, a critical care specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, told WCVB MIS-C is definitely an immune response.

“The hyper-inflammatory response is because, in part, the immune system has never seen this virus before,” Randolph said. “About 70% end up in the intensive care unit.”

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Since it’s an immune response, Randolph said vaccination will likely decrease MIS-C case counts, but a COVID-19 vaccination is not yet authorized for children under 12, so cases could continue to emerge. (Pfizer announced Tuesday it’s working on a vaccine for kids.)

“We’re watching very carefully and we anticipate if it’s going to peak, it might be happening soon,” Randolph told WCVB. “It’s very likely that vaccination is going to prevent MIS-C because the patient already has antibodies and it’s not their first exposure. And hopefully, it will go [away] and we will see very few to no cases in the future.”

The CDC is still working to understand the condition, with data from Randolph and other physicians.

“CDC is still learning about MIS-C and how it affects children, so we don’t know why some children have gotten sick with MIS-C and others have not,” the CDC website reads. “We also do not know if children with certain health conditions are more likely to get MIS-C.” 

The best thing to do now is follow best practices for not getting the virus, and getting vaccinated if you’re an adult.

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