RUSHVILLE -- It is rare, but recognizing the signs and symptoms can make a difference. In Indiana, there are 65 confirmed Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome cases, the illness found in children and related to COVID-19, according to the Indiana State Health Department.
“What we've been seeing in children mirrors what we've been seeing in adults. As cases are rising in adults, then we see more cases in children,” Dr. Jimmy Carlucci said. He is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics Infectious Diseases at Riley Hospital for Children.
“I don’t have a lot of memories of it…but I do remember me looking at my dad and saying, ‘I’m scared,’ ” Richard Barnes said. The 15-year-old from Rushville spent almost a week at Riley Hospital for Children with MIS-C earlier this year.
“I’ve never been sick in my life that bad,” Richard said. Weeks before, COVID-19 took hold of the Barnes family during the holiday. The high school freshman said he had mild symptoms. He plays football and baseball, while managing the basketball team. His parents said he was a healthy kid and always puts a smile on other’s faces.
“We knew you could get it again, but we thought hey we’re good for 90 days and hey everything is going to be great but then Richard starts feeling bad and here we go,” Steve Barnes said about his son.
The family said they did not know much about the syndrome and were in shock after a trip to the ER for what was thought to be appendicitis, turned into a MIS-C diagnosis.
“At one point he had a 104.5 fever and he couldn’t get up on his own, walk on his own, obviously couldn’t keep anything down-- I was having to helping him move. It was bad,” Steve said.
Riley infectious diseases expert Dr. Jimmy Carlucci stresses this syndrome is rare. He was one of Richard’s doctors. Nationwide, the CDC reports there are a little more than 2,000 confirmed MIS-C cases. There are more than three million confirmed COVID-19 cases in children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“With time we’ve come to realize that MIS-C truly is a distinct thing from Kawasaki and other inflammatory conditions, and our treatment approach has sort of evolved, as well,” Dr. Carlucci said.
Weeks after he was discharged, Richard is not 100%, but is close. For the next few months, he has to stay away from any physical activity. The family hopes in sharing their journey, others will know what to look out for.
“I’m just very, very happy that I get to see his smile. I mean his smile is one of the best things I love about him and to get to see that. That makes me happy,” Beth Barnes, Richard’s mom, said.
Dr. Carlucci said the peak in MIS-C cases seems to have leveled off, but he said if COVID cases rise again, he expects to see a rise too in MIS-C cases weeks later.
It usually shows in children about a three to four weeks after a COVID-19 infection, according to Dr. Carlucci. It should be noted, a child does not necessarily have to have shown symptoms of COVID to develop MIS-C In this case, an antibody test is used to detect the infection.
WRTV Reporter Nikki DeMentri asked Dr. Carlucci: “Do we know at this point if those variants will have an impact on MIS-C?”
Dr. Carlucci responded: “We don’t, but that’s a really insightful question. There is some thought in the community that perhaps different variants could trigger a different type of inflammatory response. And so maybe you’d see more MIS-C with heart manifestations for example…But all of that is really kind of speculative. We don’t, we don’t know.”
As for the future of MIS-C, Dr. Carlucci said it is uncertain at this point. Experts are still trying to learn if there will be long-term consequences from this syndrome, but he said at this point it looks like children make full recoveries.