An Ohio child less than five years old was hospitalized with a rare, but serious complication associated with COVID-19, officials said Monday.
The child has been diagnosed with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a dangerous condition that can cause serious or lethal inflammation in the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs.
The patient is recovering in Dayton Children’s Hospital.
“This is just another example of how dangerous this virus can be,” said Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson in a news release.
Clinicians in the United Kingdom first reported MIS-C cases in late April, per a CDC health advisory. Between April 16 and May 4, 15 patients in New York, all between 2 and 15 years old, have been hospitalized with the disease, many of whom required intensive care. As of May 12, New York officials have detected 102 patients believed to have MIS-C.
The CDC’s case definition for MIS-C requires that an individual younger than 21 exhibit a fever, inflammation, and severe illness requiring hospitalization. That person must also have either tested positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus within four weeks of symptoms.
The hospitalization requirement could lead to an underestimation of the caseload, according to Dr. Amy Edwards, a pediatric infectious disease expert with University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. However, the disease is believed to be rare.
Edwards said the hospital network has confirmed one case in Ohio, though a handful of children are suspected cases.
She said children with MIS-C can show high fevers between 102- and 105 degrees Fahrenheit, inflammation in their blood, rashes, gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea or diarrhea, and others.
“They’re miserable, and they just look sick,” she said of children hospitalized with MIS-C.
Clinicians believe the risk of MIS-C is low, Edwards said, though she noted the disease was only detected in April and is filled with unknowns: What are the risk factors? Are mild cases even relevant? What’s the best treatment?
“With MIS-C, there is no current understanding for who’s at risk — why do some kids get this disease and some kids do not?” she said. “We have absolutely no idea.”
Of about 58,000 known cases in Ohio as of Monday, 4,050 patients are younger than 20 years-old, per an analysis of state data. At least 142 of them have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported in the age group.
An Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman did not respond to inquiries about how many MIS-C cases have been detected in the state.
A spokeswoman with the Clark County Combined Health District said eight cases have been reported statewide.
A June 29 study in the New England Journal of Medicine documented 186 hospitalized MIS-C patients in 26 states with a median age of 8 years old. Of them, 1 in 12 had coronary-artery aneurysms; 80% required intensive care; 20% required use of a ventilator; and four died, two of whom were previously healthy.
The researchers wrote that MIS-C “led to serious and life-threatening illness in previously healthy children and adolescents.”