Doctors have observed an increase of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) among COVID-19 patients, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
The reason for the sudden increase of MIS-C is unclear, though the surge comes just after the U.S. experienced a spike in coronavirus cases over the winter, possibly increasing the chances of severe illness.
“We’re now getting more of these MIS-C kids, but this time, it just seems that a higher percentage of them are really critically ill,” Roberta DeBiasi, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., told the Times.
Symptoms of MIS-C include fever, rash, red eyes and gastrointestinal problems, and some cases can progress to heart dysfunction.
Though the number of cases is rising, MIS-C remains rare, the Times noted. Some 2,060 cases and 30 deaths in 48 states, Puerto Rico and D.C. have been recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the CDC, the median age of patients to have MIS-C is 9, with most patients between 1 and 14. However, cases have been observed in patients younger than 1 and as old as 20.
The majority of cases have occurred in children of color, the CDC noted, with 69 percent being Hispanic, Latino or Black. Fifty-eight percent of patients to develop MIS-C were male.
Though daily coronavirus cases are dropping, the more infectious U.K. and South Africa strains are believed to pose a new threat in the U.S.
Recent research has found that the U.K. variant could be more lethal, though current vaccines are believed to be effective at protecting against it. The South Africa variant, however, has been shown to be more resistant to current vaccines.
As the Times noted, most young people survive contracting COVID-19 and return to relatively healthy conditions, but health experts are still unsure about what lingering health effects will be seen. Vaccines are not currently available for most children in most states as front-line health care workers, care home residents and the elderly are prioritized.