Metro doctors warn of rise in rare disease that impacts children who contract COVID-19

ATLANTA — Metro doctors are keeping a close eye on a young boy from Cobb County who has been diagnosed with a rare but dangerous condition linked to COVID-19.

It’s called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C.

Channel 2′s Michael Seiden has spoken with several doctors from across the metro who said emergency rooms across Georgia have seen more and more children with this condition.

The doctors said there is no reason to panic, but they are concerned about what they’ve seen in the last month or so and believe this has the potential to become a major problem.

Metro mother Leslie Lubell said she hopes her son’s story serves as a wake-up call to parents who aren’t taking the pandemic seriously.

“I think it was Tuesday that he started feeling bad, running a fever,” Lubell said.

She told Seiden that she knew her 10-year-old son Max was getting sick.

“We thought it was a bug. That’s pretty typical of elementary school-aged kids,” Lubell said.

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But by Saturday morning, Lubell said she and Max’s father knew it was much more than a stomach bug.

“He was really sick. He was vomiting, diarrhea. He had a fever that wouldn’t go away. And Saturday morning, this rash was everywhere all over his body,” Lubell said. “He had conjunctivitis in both eyes. He had some swelling and redness and his hands, his feet. His lips and his mouth were getting red.”

The Cobb County student eventually ended up in the intensive care unit at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite hospital, where doctors diagnosed Max with MIS-C.

“When you come into the hospital, and you hear an infectious disease team say to you, ‘Here’s what we think. But not sure — we are still figuring it out,’” Lubell said.

Dr. Preeti Jaggi said the cause of MIS-C remains a mystery.

“We’ve had over 175 cases, and we are seeing many, many more in January and early February,” Jaggi said.

Jaggi told Seiden that she and her staff treat children of all ages usually four to six weeks after the children contract COVID-19.

“These children are requiring medicines to keep their blood pressure high enough to profuse their organs,” Jaggi said.

According to the state health department, those children in Georgia make up 154 of the more than 2,000 cases reported across the country.

So far, no child in Georgia has died from this illness. But in other places, at least 30 children have died, according to the latest numbers from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I think the new variants are going to be very important because if we see community transmission going up, we will see this illness going up as well,” Jaggi said.

Lubell said Max contracted COVID-19 in January, but she never expected it would cause any long-term health problems.

“Why are we not talking about this? Why do people not know about it?” Lubell said.

Max’s doctors expect him to make a full recovery. His mother told Seiden he could go home by the end of the week.

“People need to know so that they can get their kids medical care and attention as quickly as possible. Or otherwise, it could go so far where it could end up being deadly,” Lubell said.

Because so much remains unknown about the disease, the CDC is already conducting multiple studies on it.

Lubell said her son has been asked to participate in another study at CHOA in hopes that the research will help determine the cause of this condition.

Researchers also hope to find out why it is disproportionately affecting children of color.