Riverside County health officials on Tuesday reported the first case of multisystem inflammatory syndrome children, referred to as MIS-C. It is a rare complication that impacts individuals younger than 21 years old who have or have had COVID-19.
The reported case is a child who lives in western Riverside County and is under 15 years old. There is a probable second case of MIS-C in the Coachella Valley, according to a press release from the county, though it has yet to be confirmed.
The syndrome causes inflammation of various body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes and gastrointestinal organs. Most cases have symptoms similar to toxic shock syndrome shock. Symptoms have included low blood pressure, diarrhea, fever, headache, rash, pink eye, difficulty breathing, red, cracked lips, swollen tongue, and swelling of lower legs or hands, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The usual hospital stay for patients is six to seven days, most were cared for in intensive care unit, and about 2% of MIS-C patients have died, according to two similar studies, one published by the New England Journal of Medicine and the other by Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report which is published on the CDC site.
More than two-thirds of patients did not have preexisting conditions and were healthy prior to contracting COVID-19. It is not yet known what causes kids to contract MIS-C, but most kids fully recover.
“MIS-C is thought to be caused by the patient’s own immune system working overtime,” said Dr. Maulin Soneji, MD, Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital pediatric infectious disease physician. “It does not seem to be related to how severely sick the child was when they had COVID-19 since Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome in Children happens after a child has recovered from COVID-19.”
The diagnosis is often reported about two to four weeks after the initial onset of COVID-19 in children, according to the CDC.
The illness can cause long-term health impacts, though it is not yet clear what those impacts might be as health officials just learned about the diagnosis in April. However, the Loma Linda pediatric infectious diseases division plans to follow MIS-C patients they have cared for at least one year after treatment to monitor for symptoms or the need for further testing.
“While most children are only minimally sickened by COVID-19, they can get it just as easily as adults, and an unlucky few will have serious complications,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer. “While this case is not known to be linked to any school, it’s a reminder we need to pay attention to COVID-19 in kids and its potential long- and short-term effects.”
As some schools in Riverside County return to in-person learning, the risk of children contracting the virus increases.
Palm Valley School in Rancho Mirage will be the first school in the Coachella Valley to reopen to students and faculty for in-person learning for kindergarten through sixth grade when the doors open Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day. In the meantime, the school has returned via virtual learning.
Two other local schools have also applied to reopen for in-person learning. Those applications, from Desert Chapel Christian School and King’s School, both in Palm Springs, are pending approval.
All public schools in the valley have returned via virtual learning.
Despite a return to another school year, officials remind parents to minimize social gatherings.
“We need to remember that this pandemic is still among us,” said Riverside County Board Chair and Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez. “As we continue to learn more about the symptoms and health effects of coronavirus, it is important that we continue to protect our health and prevent further spread of coronavirus.”
There have been no reports of child deaths related to COVID-19 or MIS-C in Riverside County. Loma Linda hospital, which has cared for many of the county’s pediatric coronavirus patients requiring hospitalization, has admitted about 50 kids who have tested positive for the virus, Soneji said.
Riverside County health officials advise parents to contact their child’s pediatrician or primary care provider if they believe their child is displaying MIS-C symptoms. Health officials also urge physicians to consider the possibility of a MIS-C diagnosis in patients under 21 years old who are displaying similar symptoms and to notify the department immediately of any cases.
Desert Sun reporter Nicole Hayden covers health in the Coachella Valley. She can be reached at Nicole.Hayden@desertsun.com or (760) 778-4623. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_A_Hayden.