University Of Mississippi Medical Center: More Corona Related Pediatric Hospitalizations To Come, UMMC Experts Warn
August 23, 2021
When Dr. As Charlotte Hobbs sees an increasing number of children contracting COVID-19, the current number of children being hospitalized with the virus is just one of her concerns.
In the future, an increase in cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C, is imminent, a rare but serious condition that follows a COVID-19 infection, even one that was asymptomatic.
MIS-C cases are already on the rise, said Hobbs, a professor and specialist in pediatric infectious diseases who provides follow-up care for children treated at the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s MIS-C clinic.
“On Friday, we had six pediatric patients being treated or evaluated for MIS-C,” Hobbs said. “That’s the most we’ve ever had in one sitting, and that went up from zero a month ago. That’s a dramatic increase.”
During past COVID-19 peaks, the children’s hospital never had more than one or two MIS-C cases at a time, said Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair, Professor and Chair of Pediatrics.
“We are concerned about this MIS-C peak,” she said. “Children with MIS-C can get very sick very quickly.”
MIS-C is a delayed immune system response to COVID-19 infection. During a case of MIS-C, the immune system of a child infected with COVID-19 attacks the body’s healthy cells, especially the blood vessels, heart, and other organs.
Children’s of Mississippi, the pediatric division of the UMMC that includes the state’s only children’s hospital, has treated 69 cases of MIS-C since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and that number is growing. Statewide, at least 75 children have been diagnosed with the condition.
There have been more than 4,400 cases of MIS-C nationwide, with 37 deaths, but the CDC recognizes those numbers may be low as states voluntarily report MIS-C.
“The MIS-C case rate in Mississippi is higher than some states because of our lower vaccination coverage and prevention of SARS CoV-2 infection, which is associated with the development of MIS-C,” Hobbs said.
With MIS-C following COVID-19 infections by a few weeks or even months, the condition will most likely increase the need for hospitalization, Hobbs said.
“That’s why we need to protect children, many of whom are too young to be vaccinated, and we can do that by getting vaccinated, wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing,” she said.
Pediatric cases account for about 21 percent of all new COVID-19 cases in the state. This increase in the number of cases is reflected in the hospital admissions at the UMMC. The UMMC registered a record of 30 pediatric patients hospitalized as a result of COVID-19 on Monday.
One of six MIS-C patients at Children’s of Mississippi Friday was Emma Corley, a 4-year-old from Lumberton who was recovering from the condition. She arrived at the children’s hospital on Aug. 18 with a fever of over 103, her mother, Crystal Head, said.
“We were afraid of her,” she said. “I tried to keep her calm in the ambulance by spying with colors and shapes.”
Emma, along with the rest of her family, was diagnosed with COVID-19 on August 2.
“She and her sister only had runny noses,” she said, “Their symptoms were mild. We knew nothing about MIS-C.”
Emma’s recovery included care from specialists in areas such as cardiology and rheumatology.
The median age of children with MIS-C is 9, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“MIS-C can be life-threatening for children, but if diagnosed, it can be treated,” Hobbs said. The average hospital stay for MIS-C is about a week, and many times, that can include days in intensive care.
Early MIS-C symptoms include fever for more than a day. Other symptoms may also include vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, and fatigue. Parents who see these warning signs in their children should seek immediate help to prevent MIS-C from becoming a life-threatening condition.
“If your child has had COVID and has a fever for a week or more, you need to be concerned,” Head said. “We were lucky that Emma received early care. The sooner your child is treated, the faster it gets better.”
Terry’s LeAnn Henderson agrees, and after her daughter, Allie, 14, was diagnosed with MIS-C earlier this year in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Children’s of Mississippi, she is encouraging families and children who qualify to have the COVID-19 19 vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved by the FDA on Monday for children as young as 12 years old.
“Consider getting your child vaccinated,” she said. “Everyone’s body is different, which is why COVID affects us all differently. Educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of MIS-C and don’t think it would never happen to your child.”
Henderson advised Mississippi parents to take COVID-19 and MIS-C seriously and seek immediate help if they experience MIS-C symptoms.
“Watching your child suffer and fight for her life is the hardest, most terrifying experience I’ve ever had,” Henderson said.
Children under the age of 12 are not eligible for vaccination against COVID-19.
“They need to be protected,” Hobbs said. “Vaccinations of those who qualify, along with wearing face masks, can protect children.”
This press release is prepared by the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.