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Family Healthcast: Mysterious Adult MIS-A

Published: Mar. 12, 2021 at 12:29 PM CST
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A rare and mysterious illness first reported in children who have recovered from COVID-19 is now appearing in adults. The Center for Disease Control is warning physicians and hospitals to be on the lookout.

Tammy Holland thought she dodged a bullet last fall. “I had mild symptoms with my COVID,” said Holland. “I had a stuffy nose and that was it.”

The mother of five is a breast cancer survivor and worried about complications so when the infection cleared, she was grateful.

But three weeks later she started feeling sick again. “I had pneumonia in my lower left lobe so they gave me some medicine and sent me home. For the next couple of days, I started to get worse.”

Soon, Holland was put on a ventilator as doctors tried to pinpoint the problem. Then her organs started failing and she was medevacked to the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where more sophisticated equipment could keep her alive.

The entire time her family was searching for clues about her mysterious symptoms and found an article about multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children.

“And it was like ringing a bell like, wait a minute,” said Kathy Scarborough, Holland’s sister. “All of these symptoms and this whole progression of symptoms is mirroring what was stated about these kids.”

The condition commonly referred to as MIS-C was first identified in the spring with kids developing a rash and inflammation around their heart and other organs several weeks after clearing their COVID infection.

Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms adults are now experiencing the same rare condition, according to Dr. Ermias Belay, an epidemiologist.

“So instead of just taking care of the virus, the immune system actually damages the organ systems in the body,” said Dr. Belay.

Belay says multi-system inflammatory syndrome in adults . Or MIS-A, develops two to six weeks after someone is infected with the coronavirus.

But older patients don’t always have the tell-tale rash seen in children which can make it difficult to recognize.

“There’s no specific laboratory test that would pick it up,” said Belay. “But a patient who developed COVID-19, typically within days or weeks, if they come back with the symptoms of fever or evidence of multiple organ failure symptoms, they should be considered potentially with having MIS-A and treated appropriately.”

Holland is back home now and has had to undergo physical therapy to regain her strength.

The CDC says they are getting the word out using the “standard communication channels” to reach physicians and hospitals to alert them about MIS-A, how to diagnose it and how to treat it.

It is too soon to know what puts someone at a higher risk for developing MIS-A.

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