Scores of UK and US children have been affected by a rare inflammatory disease linked to coronavirus. In a tiny number of children it can cause serious complications, with some needing intensive care.
Up to 100 children in the UK have been affected and studies suggest the same reaction is being seen in children elsewhere in Europe. It is likely to be caused by a delayed immune response to the virus which looks like Kawasaki disease.
This was prompted by eight children becoming ill in London, including a 14-year-old who died. They all had similar symptoms when they were admitted to Evelina London Children’s Hospital, including a high fever, rash, red eyes, swelling and general pain.
Most of the children had no major lung or breathing problems, although seven were put on a ventilator to help improve heart and circulation issues.
Doctors are describing it as a “new phenomenon” similar to Kawasaki disease shock syndrome – a rare condition that mainly affects children under the age of five. Symptoms include a rash, swollen glands in the neck and dry and cracked lips.
But this new syndrome is also affecting older children up to the age of 16, with a minority experiencing serious complications. Dr Liz Whittaker, clinical lecturer in paediatric infectious diseases and immunology, at Imperial College London, said the fact that the syndrome was occurring in the middle of a pandemic, suggests the two are linked.
“You’ve got the Covid-19 peak, and then three or four weeks later we’re seeing a peak in this new phenomenon which makes us think that it’s a post-infectious phenomenon,” she said. This means it is likely to be something related to the build-up of antibodies after infection.