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Florida hospital starts ICU unit to treat MIS-C, the kids illness linked to COVID-19

Michelle Marchante, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI -- Nicklaus Children's Hospital has created a new unit in ICU to prepare for a likely increase of children ill with MIS-C, an inflammatory disorder that has affected at least seven children in Florida and is believed to be linked to COVID-19.

The specialized four-room "MIS-C pod" is part of the hospital's 40-bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and will make it easier to treat patients diagnosed with the multi-system inflammatory syndrome, said Dr. Keith Meyer, medical director of extracorporeal services at Nicklaus Children's Hospital near South Miami.

"About a week ago we noticed that we had a few children coming in with what we suspected was this new MIS-C disorder and we thought why not create a dedicated unit within a unit because ... oftentimes the specialized care is better because all the required nurses and equipment and therapy is all sort of right there in the palm of your hands," Meyer said.

Multi-system inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, is described as a swelling that can affect "multiple body systems" including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes and gastrointestinal organs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Potential MIS-C patients are those who are younger than 21.

Nicklaus Children's Hospital near South Miami has created a specialized four-room "unit-within-a-unit" to treat and isolate children diagnosed with multi-system inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C. COURTESY OF NICKLAUS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL

Symptoms of the syndrome can appear up to a month after a child is infected with COVID-19, including in those who were asymptomatic, Meyer said. While there is no official treatment for the disorder, doctors believe it's a "severe inflammatory reaction" to the virus and are using different immune-modulating therapies to treat it, depending on the child's symptoms.

 

Many of the children diagnosed with the syndrome tested positive for COVID-19, were previously infected with the novel coronavirus (based on antibody tests) or had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, according to the CDC. It's still unknown if the syndrome can also affect adults or if there are certain children who are at higher risk of falling ill with the syndrome.

Most MIS-C patients no longer have COVID-19 and are not contagious. But because of the disorder's link with the novel coronavirus, the hospital is isolating the children in private rooms to keep them and their parents away from other patients as a precaution, Meyer said.

The hospital says its "MIS-C pod" has barriers to prevent cross-contamination within the intensive care unit, including a decontamination area for those entering and exiting the unit and a specialized bed to help staff with the regular turning of intubated patients. The doctors also have the ability to "seal it off" from the rest of the hospital, Meyer said.

Doctors in the United Kingdom first alerted other doctors to the syndrome in April. Since then, MIS-C has been seen in children across Europe and in at least 18 states, plus Washington, D.C. It has a low mortality rate and most children recover.

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