British Columbia has confirmed its first case of a rare inflammatory illness in children linked to COVID-19.

At her Thursday briefing, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the case of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, known as MIS-C, involved a child younger than five who had since recovered and returned home.

The case was confirmed when serology testing revealed this week the child had contracted COVID-19, Henry said.

“When we called a syndrome, that means there’s a bunch of different things that can happen and it’s a combination of them that fit you into this criteria,” Henry said.

“So a syndrome is something when we don’t know exactly what’s causing it or … you could have a constellation of things that might lead to (it).”

B.C. first reported suspected cases of MIS-C in August, but international cases have been reported since the spring.

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Sixteen suspected cases have been identified in B.C., though none of them have tested positive for COVID-19, Henry said.

Along with a positive COVID-19 test, children under the age of 19 are diagnosed with MIS-C when they require hospitalization and have a fever for at least three days.

They must also present at least two of the following symptoms: Gastrointestinal issues, a rash, red or inflamed eyes or inflammation and swelling around the mouth, hands or feet.

A number of the symptoms can also be associated with a similar post-infection condition known as Kawasaki disease, Henry said.

“This is a syndrome that tends to come up several weeks to months after an infection,” she said.

“All of the other kids, the young people that had it, that were in hospital here in B.C., the 16 others, none of them had any tests that were positive for COVID and were likely, according to their clinicians, much more likely to be associated with some other cause.”

The syndrome can lead to damaged blood vessels as well as inflammation around the heart or blood vessels, Henry said.

According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, children with MIS-C can become critically ill or even die.

The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which declared MIS-C a “new threat,” said on Oct. 1 that more than 1,000 cases of the syndrome and 20 deaths had been confirmed in the United States.

Henry said the case was an important warning about the need to restrict the spread of COVID-19.

“We know that children are much less likely to be infected with with COVID and to have very mild symptoms, but we can’t always tell who is going to have these severe outcomes,” she said.

“So it is important that all of us bear that in mind — we are still learning about this virus, we do not yet know if there are going to be long-term effects, even for people who have mild illness.”

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