JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Ballad Health officials said it is not only seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases among children, but is also now seeing cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, as well.

Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift says the health system has seen an increase in cases specifically among school-age children, but also among college-age young adults.

Swift says the increase isn’t surprising.

“Everywhere that’s had schools reopen has had an uptick in cases,” Swift said. “The important thing is to have the information, understand that there could be COVID transmission, to have that very low threshold to keep your child at home if they’re sick, not send them to school with any symptoms, and to seek that medical care and get tested.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MIS-C “is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.” The CDC says while the cause of MIS-C is unknown, it has appeared in many children who either had COVID-19 virus or been around someone with COVID-19.

Children with MIS-C may have a fever and experience a variety of symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, or feeling extra tired.

Swift encourages parents to remain vigilant when it comes to monitoring their children for symptoms. She added that while “very few” children require hospitalization due to the novel coronavirus, it can lead to severe illness.

“We don’t want to cause fear and panic, we just want parents to be aware, that certainly to be aware for symptoms, to be aware of making sure our kids are still trying to social distance, wear a mask, and do all the things that they need to do,” Swift said.

According to data from the Tennessee Department of Health, over the last 14 days, 34 school-age children were diagnosed with COVID-19 in Washington County, 25 in Sullivan County, 11 in each Carter and Hawkins Counties, nine in each Greene and Johnson Counties, and four in Unicoi County.

TDH also issued a statement in May declaring that healthcare providers should report suspected cases of MIS-C if the following symptoms are present:

  • Fever: at least 100.4 F for more than 24 hours, or report of subjective fever lasting more than 24 hours.
  • Inflammation: Laboratory evidence of inflammation
  • Multisystem organ involvement: Evidence of clinically severe illness requiring hospitalization with multisystem organ involvement (cardiac, renal, respiratory, hematological, gastrointestinal, dermatologic or neurological)
  • No evidence of alternative plausible diagnoses

News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais spoke with a Washington County, Tennessee parent who said she is concerned about the appearance of MIS-C in the Ballad Health coverage area.

“That’s terrifying to think that there’s something else that’s going to happen to my child, like, we’re trying already so hard to clean our hands, wear our masks correctly, social distance, use sanitizer,” said parent of two, Callie Weaks. “COVID itself, and then that’s on top of it, that I have to fear my child going anywhere, for any reason, that that could happen to them. That’s terrifying.”

Weaks told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that she has been cautious about the health safety of her sons since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and news of MIS-C reaching the Tri-Cities region has only bolstered her beliefs.

“Thankfully, I have a support system – my mom does the schooling with them while I’m at work, and I just started going 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. so when I come home, I can help and do what I need to with them,” Weaks said. “They will stay virtual as long as they can until the school board changes their mind and until I have to take them back there, I’m going to keep them home.”

She added that though her sons have no pre-existing respiratory illnesses to cause concern for COVID-19, Weaks said she is however concerned about the fact that MIS-C can spread inflammation to internal organs such as the heart.

“Their dad’s family has history of heart problems, diabetes, generally just heart problems, so when I was reading about it, it said it affects your heart, so that would be a major concern for me,” she said. “It’s scary, in general, because it’s your child, you know? We don’t want to set our kids out there and free game for this stuff and it’s terrifying being a parent right now, to put it lightly.”

For more information about MIS-C, click HERE.