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COVID-related syndrome can cause organ failure in children

Last Updated May 17, 2021 at 6:55 pm MDT

CALGARY — Severe outcomes of COVID-19 in children are rare.

But multi-inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, can happen weeks after a COVID infection – and it can lead to even worse outcomes.

“What it involves is a fever as well as inflammation of organs, at least two organ systems – so it could be inflammation of the heart, the kidneys, the brain — it could be abnormalities with clotting,” said Dr. Tehseen Ladha, an assistant professor in the Pediatrics Department at the University of Alberta. “It’s a severe condition, it requires hospitalization, treatment with intravenous medications, and it can have long-term consequences on the health of kids.”

Ladha says it’s hard for them to get data on the number of children in Alberta who have suffered from MIS-C but she says that colleagues have told her they are seeing increased hospitalizations of children in general with COVID-19, and in turn, they would expect to see an increase of cases of MIS-C.

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“We’ve actually seen in Alberta more cases of hospitalization due to MIS-C than we have due to COVID,” said Dr. Michelle Bailey, president of pediatrics for the Alberta Medical Association.

As of Monday morning, there have been 23 cases of MIS-C in Alberta, and that all of them required hospitalization.

“That condition has several days of fever and then can be accompanied by quite a number of other symptoms – red eyes, rashes, tummy upset, vomiting and abdominal pain,” said Bailey.

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While parents who catch MIS-C in their kids in time have a good chance to prevent long-term consequences, COVID-19 and the associated MIS-C are being compared to a disease that hasn’t been seen in our country in a long time.

“If you actually look at percentages of children that were debilitated by polio, they’re similar to the percentages of children that are getting severe COVID-19 outcomes,” said Ladha. “What we don’t know is, could these symptoms last years and debilitate the child and prevent them from having a productive life, and so that would be similar to what happened to polio.”