Mysterious syndrome linked to COVID-19 identified at Children's Hospital

Mysterious syndrome linked to COVID-19 identified at Children's Hospital


WAUWATOSA — Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a syndrome still not fully understood and appearing in children who have come in contact with COVID-19, has been identified in patients at Children’s Wisconsin hospital in Wauwatosa.

Zhu Frank


The Department of Health Services reported seven MIS-C cases in Wisconsin so far and zero deaths.

Most of the cases have come from kids who live in southeastern Wisconsin, which is also where COVID-19 is most prevalent in the state, according to Dr. Frank Zhu, Children’s medical director for infection control and prevention.

According to medical professionals still trying to understand the new syndrome, MIS-C appears to be caused by the body’s response to COVID.

It appears in children who test positive on antibody tests but tested negative on nasal swab tests for COVID — meaning they previously had come in contact with the novel coronavirus, but no longer have an active infection. There also is not a specific test for MIS-C, and it can present in children who did not show prior COVID-like symptoms.

“Our current working diagnosis is that this is likely a post-infectious complication of COVID-19,” Zhu said, and that the complications from MIS-C appear to be caused by the body’s immune response going “a little off-kilter.”

Symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes and “feeling extra tired.”

Michael F Gutzeit


Although MIS-C can be deadly, “the vast majority of children recover with brief hospital stays,” said Dr. Michael Gutzeit, chief medical officer at Children’s. Gutzeit added that some children with less severe symptoms are able to recover at home.

Medical professionals nationwide are still trying to determine the best way to treat the illness. Zhu and Gutzeit advise parents and caretakers who witness their kids experiencing MIS-C symptoms or appearing sickly to contact their primary care physician.

Although the first cases of MIS-C were reported in Europe, particularly in London, Zhu said that African-American children in the U.S. so far have been showing the most severe symptoms.

“It does not seem to affect a similar percentage of Caucasians as much as we would expect in terms of proportion to the population. Although again, the numbers are not that large to say for sure,” Zhu said. “So we would say that similar to how COVID-19 seems to be more severe in the African-American population in the United States, this may affect African-Americans a little bit more.”

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