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25 cases of rare child disease possibly linked to COVID-19 in Minnesota

It's extremely rare, but health officials want parents to be aware.

A rare pediatric syndrome that Minnesota health officials first warned about in May has so far affected 25 children in Minnesota. 

Multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MISC) has been diagnosed in 25 children in Minnesota, with 76% of the infected children being Black or Hispanic, according to Minnesota State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield. 

"This is a severe syndrome in children that is associated with fever and multi-system involvement, defined as two or more organ systems and hospitalization," said Lynfield. "It is thought to be associated with SARS-CoV-2 (novel coronavirus) and 88% of our cases had a positive PCR or antibody to SARS-CoV-2."

Lynfield added: "Although this is a rare condition, we do want parents to be informed and to seek medical care for their children if they have fever and GI (gastrointestinal) symptoms." Other symptoms possibly associated with MISC are rash, red eyes and excessive fatigue.

For context under the assumption that MISC can be linked to COVID-19, there have been 25 cases of more than 15,000 reported cases of COVID-19 in Minnesotans aged 0-19. 

Sixty percent of the 25 infected children required treatment in the intensive-care unit, while 68% of the kids were previously healthy. All 25 patients had a fever while 84% developed gastrointestinal symptoms. Additionally, 75% had evidence that MISC was affecting their heart, with patient echocardiograms showing abnormalities. 

The age range was as young as 6 months old to 16 years, with a median age of 4. There were three cases in May, 11 in June, five in August and so far two in September. 

Fortunately, there have been no deaths from the syndrome in Minnesota and none of the 25 are currently hospitalized. 

Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a pediatric infectious diseases physician at the Mayo Clinic, told Bring Me The News in May that she first learned about the syndrome on April 26 through an alert issued by the National Health Service, which was tracking cases coming out of the United Kingdom.

Symptoms at the time included fever, abdominal pain, gastrointestinal issues, rashes, conjunctivitis, and inflammation of mucus membranes. Some children have had very low blood pressure and presented with shock or inflammation of the heart with decreased heart function, according to Dr. Rajapakse.

"This is very serious but it does seem to be very rare," said Rajapakse, who noted that the syndrome has been found in patients as young as a few months old but has appeared more commonly (still very rare) in school-aged children and teens.

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Many of the syndrome's symptoms can appear in numerous other ailments, so if a parent is unsure about what their child is experiencing they are urged to contact their pediatrician and ask questions.

"If you have concerns about your child, definitely talk to your pediatrician," said Rajapakse. "It's very reasonable to pick up the phone and call your pediatrician if you're very worried. If your child is very ill, obviously take them into an emergency department so they can be assessed right away."

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