Doctors report more COVID-19, and MIS-C cases in Utah kids

Oct 29, 2021, 6:53 PM
utah covid children...
Kimberly Desmond, a registered nurse, draws a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at Rose Park Elementary in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY  —  Federal health officials have approved emergency use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11.  Meanwhile, doctors in Utah say the number of kids with COVID-19 is on the rise. They also say another disease is on the rise, too.

When the Delta variant of COVID-19 arrived in Utah, doctors noticed a rise in the number of children between the ages of 5 and ten who tested positive.  Currently, health officials say kids in that age group account for 20% of all new cases.

Infectious disease doctor Andrew Pavia said more than 23-thousand kids have tested positive since August, which is more than they saw during all of the last school year.

However, Pavia says they’re also seeing an uptick in the number of children diagnosed with a rare but potentially deadly disease known as multi-system inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C.

“It’s a syndrome that involves serious inflammation of many organ systems,” he said.

According to Pavia, someone can get MIS-C after experiencing an infection elsewhere in the body. He said the immune system can be working even after the virus or infection had already passed. This syndrome can attack different portions of the body, but many kids come in with stomach problems. Pavia said many children exhibit the same symptoms as appendicitis.

“The organs that are most hard-hit are typically the liver and the heart.  It’s the heart damage that scares us the most,” Pavia said.  “There are also neurologic symptoms. The brain can be involved.”

There are 120 children being treated for MIS-C in Utah now, and many of them never knew they had COVID-19.  Pavia says doctors only learned the children had the novel coronavirus after looking at blood tests.

“They had never been tested and diagnosed with COVID.  Sometimes, they had such mild illness that nobody had noticed,” he said.

Utah children will benefit from COVID-19 vaccine

Pavia believes the vaccine will be a powerful tool in stopping MIS-C in kids now that the FDA has approved the Pfizer vaccine, in a reduced dose, for kids over the age of five.  However, he’s worried COVID-19 will continue to spread in schools since mask mandates aren’t being enforced.

“The best way to avoid MIS-C is to prevent infection, even mild infection.  Up until now, the ways that we’ve had to do that have been masking, social distancing, ventilation … all of the things you’re tired of hearing us talk about,” Pavia said.

Intermountain Healthcare has set up a family vaccination center in Primary Children’s Hospital called the “Shot Spot.”  He says doctors have been providing flu shots for families there, and plan to also distribute the COVID-19 vaccine for children when it becomes available.

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Doctors report more COVID-19, and MIS-C cases in Utah kids