The quest for urgent solution or clues on how to curb the COVID-19 pandemic currently ravaging the world has engaged scientists and health experts across the world in scope never before experienced in recent history. The idea that children were much less vulnerable than their parents or grandparents to the most fatal complications brought on by Covid-19, is likely to warrant re-examination if an unusual syndrome displaying among children in the western part of the world ends up being associated with the new coronavirus.
Of late, cases of strange ailment affecting children in high COVID-19 burden countries of Italy, United Kingdom, and Spain with signs associated with Kawasaki Disease has increased apprehensions on the possibility of a coronavirus infection in children in those countries.
It was reported that a pressing alert message was delivered to General Practitioners in United Kingdom by NHS to be on the watch out for a rare but precarious reaction to children that may be associated with the new coronavirus infection.
NHS England medical director, Stephen Powis was reported to have revealed lately that NHS had become aware of reports of rare, severe disease in children. “It’s only in the last few days that we have seen those reports. We have asked our experts to look into this as a matter of urgency.”
Sky News reported that the alert was delivered by NHS England, saying there was “a growing concern” that a coronavirus-related inflammatory syndrome is emerging in children in the UK or that there may be another, as yet unidentified, infection linked to these cases.
The young patients of different ages were very sick. They had similar features to atypical Kawasaki Disease and toxic shock syndrome, which can include a high temperature, low blood pressure, a rash and difficulty breathing.
A number of them as well developed gastrointestinal symptoms – stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhoea – and inflammation of the heart, as well as abnormal blood test results. Experts say these are the signs you can see when the body becomes overwhelmed as it tries to battle an infection.
A number of children in the United Kingdom having no underlying health disorders have reportedly died from this rare inflammatory syndrome and scientists are certain of its possible link with COVID-19, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said recently in London describing the development as troubling.
“There are some children who have died who didn’t have underlying health conditions,” Hancock told LBC Radio.
“It’s a new disease that we think may be caused by coronavirus and the COVID-19 virus, we’re not 100% sure because some of the people who got it hadn’t tested positive, so we’re doing a lot of research now but it is something that we’re worried about.”
The greatest number of cases were noticed in school-age or teenage minors, and sometimes coincided with Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
Parents should be watchful, junior British interior minister Victoria Atkins said.
Dr. Nazima Pathan, a consultant in Paediatric Intensive Care in Cambridge, said colleagues in Spain and Italy had been reporting related cases: “Some of the children have presented with a septic shock type illness and rashes – the kind of presentation we would expect to see in toxic shock syndrome and Kawasaki disease (which affects blood vessels and the heart).
In Italy, paediatricians are likewise startled. A hospital in the northern town of Bergamo has observed above 20 cases of severe vascular inflammation in the past month, six times as many as it would expect to see in a year, said paediatric heart specialist, Matteo Ciuffreda.
Ciuffreda, of the Giovanni XXIII hospital, said only a small number of the infants with vascular inflammation came out positive for Covid-19, but paediatric cardiologists in Madrid and Lisbon had told him they had observed related cases.
He reached out to his colleagues to record every such case to see if there is a link between Kawasaki disease and COVID-19. He looks to publishing the results of the Italian study in a scientific journal.
However, in the United States, a country with high affliction of new coronavirus and fatalities, the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) is yet to see anything like it.
“We are not aware of any reports of this phenomenon in the United States,” Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, who chairs the academy’s committee on infectious disease, said in an email, referring to a potential link between COVID-19 and Kawasaki-type symptoms.
Dr. Sean O’Leary, a paediatric infectious diseases expert at Children’s Hospital Colorado who is part of that AAP committee, said his hospital has seen several cases of Kawasaki this year, but nothing in the more than 30 COVID-19 children patients.
“Even if it is related, is a very rare complication,” he said. “If it were more common, we’d already have a pretty good idea about it in the United States.”
The cause of Kawasaki disease is not yet known; it frequently afflicts children aged under 5 and is accompanied by fever, skin rashes, swelling of glands, and in extreme cases, inflammation of arteries of the heart. There is some evidence that individuals can inherit a susceptibility to the disease, but the pattern is unclear.