What do I need to know about the coronavirus-related inflammatory syndrome kids are developing?

Maya Rajamani
May 18, 2020 - 2:12 pm

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NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- 1010 WINS medical expert Dr. Brian McDonough took to Facebook Live last week to answer your questions about coronavirus and Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C), also called Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (PMIS), which has been targeting children. 

What is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C)? 

Pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C for short, is similar to Kawasaki disease — an illness that usually affects children under the age of five and is marked by symptoms including fever, rash, hand swelling, red eyes, cracked and red lips, foot and hand swelling and swollen lymph glands in the neck, McDonough says. 

Clinicians in the United Kingdom were the first ones to start seeing cases of healthy children presenting with PMIS, he says. The cases occurred in children who had either previously tested or recently tested positive for COVID-19.

When a child contracts MIS-C, the body starts to “attack itself aggressively,” according to McDonough.

“When it does, it sets out this ‘cytokine’ reaction where essentially, the body just starts aggressively attacking almost every organ, and attacking itself,” he says. “It takes a little time for the body’s immune system to get ramped up, and when it does, in certain people, we see this happen.” 

New York City started tracking cases of the illness in March and April. As of Friday, there were 110 confirmed cases of PMIS in the city, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio. Three children in New York state — a 5-year-old in New York City, a 7-year-old in Westchester County and an 18-year-old on Long Island — have died of the illness.

Children with MIS-C can go from feeling slightly ill to feeling very sick within a 10 to 12 hour period, McDonough says. 

The city’s health department on Friday advised parents to monitor their children for symptoms including “persistent fever, rash, abdominal pain and vomiting.” 

“Talk to your physician if there is a concern,” McDonough advises.


Did the children who have contracted MIS-C so far have any underlying conditions? 

“That’s the interesting thing — no,” McDonough says. “In fact, (based on) the reports we’re getting, it’s relatively random. These children, they’re healthy, they get COVID, they go through COVID, maybe don’t even have major problems, but then after it’s over, a couple weeks later, they have symptoms, and these things happen pretty fast.” 


Is it safe for children to go back to school if they are at risk for MIS-C? 

“I think in this phase, we’re still learning, and what I want to stress is that (it’s) nothing to panic about,” McDonough says. “We’re not in a situation right now where we’re overwhelmed with children who are sick, and this is a devastating thing.” 

“Certainly, it’s devastating for each and every child, but we’re not having 2,000 cases or anything. But the concern is, why? And that’s what scares us,” he says. “Is there something we’re missing that may have been a problem there? Is there something we just didn’t look at and aren’t examining?” 

Since it still isn’t clear what to expect, New Yorkers should be “very careful” and exercise precautions,” he adds.