Colorado saw a record number of children last month diagnosed with a mysterious inflammatory syndrome thought to be related to COVID-19, state officials said Wednesday, encouraging parents to be vigilant as a return to in-person learning nears for many.
Officials did not say how many cases of MIS-C — or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children — were diagnosed in Colorado last month; there have been 29 total in the state. That number is expected to grow as additional cases are reviewed, the state health department said.
“There’s still a lot we don’t know about MIS-C, and the notable increase in cases is a clear reminder that our children are also at risk of serious complications from COVID-19,” Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer for the state health department, said in a statement. “As in-person learning resumes, it’s important that students continue to take measures to decrease the spread of COVID-19 such as masking, practicing physical distancing, handwashing and staying home when they are ill.”
The disease — which mimics Kawasaki disease's fever, red eyes, extreme swelling, abdominal pain and other symptoms — has been seen in children who had COVID-19 or who had been around someone who did, according to the CDC.
The spike in Colorado cases followed a spike in COVID cases in the state in November and December, Dr. Saporta-Keating, pediatric epidemiologist with Children's Hospital Colorado, said on Wednesday.
In general, children with MIS-C are "very healthy children," most of whom had only mild symptoms of COVID-19 or were asymptomatic, she said. So far no risk factors have been identified, though the disorder seems to disproportionately impact Hispanic/Latino and Black children, according to CDC data, she added.
Parents and caregivers should watch for the following symptoms, according to the health department: fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes or feeling extra tired. Potentially life-threatening symptoms requiring emergency care include trouble breathing, chest pain, confusion, inability to stay awake, blue lips or face or severe abdominal pains.
Children with COVID-19 symptoms should be tested for the virus, the state health department said, adding that children attending school should be tested for the virus "both when they develop symptoms of COVID-19 and following close contact with a COVID-19 case, even if asymptomatic."
The U.S. has had 1,659 cases of MIS-C so far, with 26 deaths — two of those in Colorado. Most of those diagnosed with the mysterious illness were between one and 14 years old, with an average age of 8, though cases have occurred in those as old as 20, according to the CDC. Similar symptoms have been seen in adults, and that syndrome has been dubbed MIS-A, accordingly.
Nearly all of those who met diagnostic criteria for MIS-C had received a positive COVID-19 test, though 1% of cases had been around someone with the potentially deadly virus. Most children developed MIS-C two to four weeks after COVID-19 infection, and nearly 60% were male, according to the CDC.
The CDC does not release the number of cases in individual states, citing privacy concerns.