News ID: 268687
Published: 0909 GMT May 06, 2020

New York reports 15 cases of rare illness in children possibly linked to coronavirus

New York reports 15 cases of rare illness in children possibly linked to coronavirus

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has reported 15 cases of a rare but potentially lethal inflammatory syndrome in children that may be linked to coronavirus infections.

More than 100 cases of the unusual illness have now emerged in at least six countries, with doctors in the UK, the US, France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland investigating the condition, the Guardian reported.

Fifteen patients aged between two and 15 were hospitalized between April 29 and May 3 with illnesses compatible with the syndrome, the department said in a statement. “All patients had subjective or measured fever and more than half reported rash, abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhea,” it added.

The syndrome resembles Kawasaki disease, authorities said, an inflammatory condition of the blood vessels in which children develop high fever, rash on the back, chest and abdomen, bloodshot eyes, swollen hands and feet, swollen lymph glands and swelling around the mouth and lips.

Kawasaki disease is rare. About 3,000 children are diagnosed with the disease each year. There are 74 million children younger than 18 in the US.

The cause of Kawasaki disease is not known, although some research papers have linked its trigger to viral infection. It was first diagnosed in Japanese children in the 1960s and does not appear to be either contagious or hereditary, according to the American Heart Association.

The department ordered pediatricians whose patients have a fever for four days or more, symptoms consistent with Kawasaki disease or symptoms similar to toxic shock syndrome to report the cases immediately, for all patients younger than 15. The health department also urged pediatricians to refer patients to infectious disease specialists or rheumatologists.

It remains unclear what connection the disease might have to Sars-Cov-2, the coronavirus which causes COVID-19, and has hit New York City particularly hard. All 15 of the children were tested for COVID-19. Ten were negative.

Although children can spread the coronavirus, they are much less likely to contract it, and it has relatively mild effects on them. In its warning about the inflammatory condition, the UK’s Pediatric Intensive Care Society said: “Serious illness as a result of COVID-19 still appears to be a very rare event in children.”

However, since the pandemic, doctors have noted patients with Kawasaki disease who also have COVID-19. The earliest known case involved a six-month-old in California, who came to the hospital with symptoms of Kawasaki disease and was also diagnosed with COVID-19.

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