Doctors in Britain, Italy, and Spain have been warned to look out for a rare inflammatory condition in children that is possibly linked to the new coronavirus.
Earlier this week, Britain’s Paediatric Intensive Care Society issued an alert to doctors noting that, in the past three weeks, there has been an increase in the number of children with “a multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care” across the country. The group said there was “growing concern” that either a COVID-19 related syndrome was emerging in children or that a different, unidentified disease might be responsible.
“We already know that a very small number of children can become severely ill with COVID-19 but this is very rare,” said Dr. Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. He said the syndrome was likely caused by an overreaction of the body’s immune system and noted similar symptoms had been seen in some adults infected with the coronavirus.
The cases were also reported to have features of toxic shock syndrome or Kawasaki disease, a rare blood vessel disorder. Only some of the children tested positive for COVID-19, so scientists are unsure if these rare symptoms are caused by the new coronavirus or by something else. Health officials estimate there have been about 10-20 such cases in Britain and NHS England said it is urgently investigating the reports.
Viner said that although doctors were considering other potential causes for the syndrome, including other viruses or new medications, “the working hypothesis is that it’s COVID-related.”
Spain’s Association of Pediatrics recently made a similar warning, telling doctors that in recent weeks, there had been a number of school-age children suffering from “an unusual picture of abdominal pain, accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms” that could lead within hours to shock, low blood pressure and heart problems.
In Italy, Dr. Angelo Ravelli of Gaslini Hospital and a member of the Italian Paediatricians’ Society, sent a note to 10,000 colleagues raising his concerns. He and his team reported an unusual increase in the number of patients with Kawasaki disease in regions of Italy hit hard by the pandemic, noting some children had COVID-19 or had contacts with confirmed virus cases.
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