Two deaths in Colorado have been attributed to multi-system inflammatory syndrome, a mysterious disorder in children and young adults that has been linked to the coronavirus.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which confirmed the fatalities to The Colorado Sun, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed seven total cases of MIS-C, the acronym for Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, in the state.
Colorado health officials declined to release further information on the two deaths, including the ages of those who died, citing patient confidentiality concerns. “To protect family privacy, we cannot share any other details at this time,” CDPHE said in a written statement.
However CDPHE said the deaths are being counted in Colorado’s tally of fatalities among people who have contracted coronavirus, which through Wednesday had surpassed 1,760.
While children rarely develop serious complications after catching the coronavirus, a relatively small number have fallen ill with multi-system inflammatory syndrome. The disorder has been compared to Kawasaki disease, but little is known about why some have the syndrome and others do not.
Kawasaki disease is also extremely rare. It causes inflammation in blood vessels throughout the body and most affects kids younger than 5 years old.
Because of the unknowns around MIS-C, it has stoked serious concerns among medical professionals across the globe.
“We still think this is a relatively rare disease,” said Dr. Sam Dominguez, who specializes in infectious diseases and works at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “We still are in a learning phase about what this syndrome really is.”
Dominguez said Children’s has cared for several children who have fallen ill with MIS-C. As of Wednesday the hospital was actively treating patients for the syndrome.
Children’s is treating the patients as though they are ill with Kawasaki disease. The hospital is actually well versed in Kawasaki, which Children’s said has given them a leg up in responding to MIS-C.
“Most of the kids are doing relatively well,” Dominguez said.
Dominguez cautioned that the CDC is casting a wide net as it investigates MIS-C and that some patients who are simply battling coronavirus and not necessarily the disorder in Colorado may be lumped together. He said, for instance, that Children’s had a child who died who met the CDC’s broad definition of MIS-C cases but that they were “somewhat atypical of kids that we are seeing with MIS-C.”
“There is a clinical definition and there is an epidemiological definition,” he said. “The CDC’s definition is pretty broad. There’s probably a few kids that meet the definition that probably have something that’s slightly different than what we’re currently thinking about what MIS-C probably is.”
Gov. Jared Polis and his public health team have encouraged Colorado parents to stay vigilant in case their children start showing signs of the disorder.
Symptoms include fever, inflammation, multi-system organ problems, and red eyes or lips. Patients also often have gastrointestinal symptoms like pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Some who fall ill with the syndrome also present with a rash.
“It’s not subtle,” Dominguez said of the syndrome and how it affects patients.
Through July 15 there were about 350 cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome reported in the U.S., according to the CDC. There were six deaths through that date.
Cases of the syndrome have been identified in children as young as infants and patients as old as 20, according to the CDC. “Most cases are in children between the ages of 1 and 14 years, with an average age of 8 years,” the CDC says.
The disorder typically presents two to four weeks after someone contracts coronavirus, though the patient may not show symptoms related to COVID-19.
Colorado has reported three coronavirus-related deaths among people between 10 and 19 years old. There have been 11 deaths among Coloradans 20 to 29 years old.
Colorado has reported no coronavirus-linked deaths among children 9 years old or younger.