Cases of coronavirus-linked inflammatory syndrome in kids have risen following surge in Bay Area

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Cases of coronavirus-linked inflammatory syndrome in kids have risen following surge in Bay Area

Mirroring national trends, local cases of a coronavirus-linked inflammatory syndrome in kids have risen following a surge in infections in the Bay Are

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Mirroring national trends, local cases of a coronavirus-linked inflammatory syndrome in kids have risen following a surge in infections in the Bay Area in December and January.

The syndrome, called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, is a condition in which various parts of the body become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kids who develop MIS-C may experience fevers, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes and/or extreme exhaustion, the CDC says. It’s unclear what causes MIS-C, but most kids who have been diagnosed with it either contracted the coronavirus at some point or had been exposed to someone who had tested positive for the virus.

Typically, children who are exposed to or contract the coronavirus don’t start experiencing MIS-C symptoms until about a month later, according to Dr. Alan Schroeder of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. That’s why the increase in cases is happening now — after the holiday season as cases are coming down.

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals saw its first case of MIS-C in July, according to Dr. Ted Chaconas, chief medical officer of the Oakland location. Since then, he said the two children’s hospitals — one in Oakland and the other in San Francisco — have jointly treated between one and three patients for the syndrome each month.

That was until January.

In the first month of the year, Chaconas said the hospitals saw 12 cases of MIS-C. In February, so far, the hospitals have treated five patients for the syndrome.

“At first, I think most pediatric centers had felt that we had been let off the hook a little but with COVID because acute COVID rarely causes severe diseases in children,” Chaconas said. “But then this MIS-C definitely has us worried.”

Symptoms can be severe and even lead to death in some instances, but the syndrome itself is still relatively rare. In the U.S., 2,060 children have been diagnosed with the condition, and 30 have died, according to the CDC.

Luckily, Chaconas said, the hospitals’ recent cases do not appear to be any more severe than previous cases. About half of MIS-C patients at the Benioff Children’s Hospitals have required a stay in the intensive care unit with one child needing to be put on a heart-lung bypass. All have recovered, and the hospitals have reported no deaths.

Studies have shown that MIS-C has disproportionately impacted Black and Latino children, with them making up nearly 70 percent of all cases. Chaconas said he’s also seen this trend locally, calling it a “very disheartening kind of disparity.”

Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford also recently saw an increase in cases of MIS-C, according to Schroeder, a physician at the hospital. But the hospital did not provide data or specifics on its cases.

At the same time as the MIS-C surge, local children’s hospitals have also seen a dramatic decline in the number of children coming in for respiratory viruses and viral infections, which Chaconas attributed to social distancing, mask wearing and children not attending school in person.

Meghan Bobrowsky is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: meghan.bobrowsky@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @MeghanBobrowsky

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