A significant uptick in MIS-C cases, a rare inflammatory condition that occurs in some children after a COVID infection, has been seen in the past three weeks at a pediatric hospital on Long Island, New York, according to doctors who spoke with Fox News.
“These are some of the sickest children I’ve seen in my career as a pediatric emergency medicine attending,” Dr. Matthew Harris, M.D., a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, on Long Island, shared with Fox News.
“We have had 14 cases in that time. Most have required the ICU. Most were not vaccinated,” Dr. Matt Harris, who is also the Medical Director of the Northwell Health COVID-19 Vaccination Program.
Harris attributed the spike in MIS-C cases to the surge of positive cases of COVID-19 that occurred in December and January across the nation.
Harris, who also serves as the Medical Director at Northwell Health Emergency Preparedness, said these cases are likely the result of the Omicron infection, given the variant’s predominance during that period. The doctor described how the Omicron variant spread like wildfire through the community, affecting mostly unvaccinated or under-vaccinated individuals. Harris also said omicron appeared to be more infectious than the alpha and delta variants, and more pediatric cases were seen with omicron compared to the earlier strains.
Harris told Fox News “I don’t believe we can draw the conclusion that Omicron is more likely to cause MIS-C itself, but given how rampant infection with Omicron has been, the shear number of COVID-19 positive children was going to manifest with increased cases of MIS-C.” The pediatrician said this underscores the fact that COVID-19 is not a benign illness in the pediatric population.
The Emergency Department physician told Fox News that at his tertiary children’s hospital; they have seen 110 cases of MIS-C since the start of the pandemic. The children’s ages ranged from 6 months to 19 years, averaging 8-9 years old. Harris said of those cases, 50% (55 patients) required admission to the intensive care unit and a majority required hemodynamic support.
Thankfully, Harris said there had been no reported deaths in these cases from MIS-C.
“Clinically, these children present with several days of fever, will typically have a rash, and often significant abdominal pain,” Harris told Fox News. The pediatrician also said blood work revealed severe inflammation and the children often rapidly decompensated.
Harris cautioned that parents should monitor children for a fever that lasts more than 3-4 days (without another obvious cause, such as strep infection, ear infections, or the flu), especially if they had COVID in the past several weeks or were exposed to a person infected with COVID during that period. The pediatrician said if a child does develop a rash, a prolonged fever, red/injected eyes, or abdominal pain, to get the child evaluated with their pediatrician or the pediatric emergency department.
MIS-C is typically treated with steroids and intravenous immunoglobulins to help reduce the inflammatory response, Harris explained to Fox News. Harris also discussed the potential heart issues associated with such inflammation.
“They often require cardiovascular support because MIS-C causes inflammation of the heart, called myocarditis,” Harris told Fox News but did say most children do recover and few have long-term effects.
“I am not aware of any fatalities from MIS-C, though nationwide there have been close to 900 pediatric deaths from COVID-19 infection,” Harris told Fox News. He also stressed the importance of vaccines in reducing the risk of infection, which thereby reduces the risk for MIS-C.
“While MIS-C is still rare, these children get incredibly sick, and it is likely that more robust vaccination in those patients who were eligible may have mitigated this somewhat,” Dr. Aaron Glatt, a spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America commented to Fox News about this report.
Glatt, an epidemiologist for Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital on Long Island, said there have been more pediatric hospitalizations with omicron than with prior variance strains.
Glatt told Fox in an interview, “Children who are hospitalized because of COVID are frequently not vaccinated. Vaccination also prevents some complications of COVID even if you do get infected.”