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Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a complication of coronavirus, has affected dozens of Idaho children. One is now awaiting a heart transplant.

BOISE, Idaho — During a virtual healthcare conference on Tuesday morning, Medical Director at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital Dr. Kenny Bramwell discussed how COVID-19 is infecting children in the Treasure Valley.

Unfortunately, dozens of children have been hospitalized due to COVID-19. One of those affected children was taken on an airplane to a hospital in Salt Lake City and is awaiting a heart transplant.

“This was a previously healthy teenager who is now going to have a heart transplant,” Bramwell said. “While COVID is inconsequential for many people, there is a subset of people who become exceptionally sick. Sometimes it’s sick enough to require a heart transplant, sometimes it’s a chronic problem where somebody has difficulty breathing or moving around their home or doing their normal activities for months.”

The severe illness found in that child is called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), which is essentially a syndrome in those under 21 years old who have been hospitalized with COVID-19.

The rare health condition seriously affects young children and teenagers.

The first case of MIS-C in Idaho was reported in August when a seven-year-old girl was treated at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital. In September, two children from the Twin Falls and Sun Valley area were diagnosed with MIS-C and taken to the hospital.

“Once they’re sick enough to be in the hospital with a COVID-based illness, then they have to have multiple systems involved, such as the pulmonary system or the renal system or the gastrointestinal system,” Bramwell said. “So they have multiple body systems that are inflamed or struggling.” 

There are also patients who stay sick enough that they ultimately need ongoing critical care for a prolonged period of time or, as Idaho witnessed, an organ transplant.

In order to be diagnosed with and treated for MIS-C, there are six criteria that must be met:

  • The person must be a pediatric patient, meaning under 21 years of age. Bramwell said a typical pediatric patient is between the ages of zero and 18. There is no known reason why this age criterion was set.
  • The patient must have a high fever for more than 24 hours.
  • The patient must be admitted to the hospital.
  • Multiple systems must be involved. Symptoms vary from person to person but tend to affect several organs and systems in the body. 
  • The patient must have physical signs of inflammation.
  • The patients must have positive COVID-19 exposure, as this illness is a delayed complication of the virus and cannot be diagnosed without exposure to it.

There are no specific precautionary measures to avoid MIS-C, as it is a complication of COVID-19. However, Bramwell is strongly encouraging Idahoans to continue practicing safety measures of slowing the spread of COVID-19 in hopes of slowing MIS-C.

“I think the best way to prevent MIS-C and to prevent spikes in other pediatric illnesses related to COVID is for all of us to just watch those three things (handwashing, social distancing, wearing a mask) and make sure we’re being vigilant for the protection of ourselves as well as our children,” Bramwell said in August.

If you are concerned that your child may have been exposed to COVID-19 and is exhibiting symptoms of MIS-C, seek timely medical attention, and call your primary pediatrician. 

You can learn more about MIS-C by clicking here.

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