Although children have escaped largely untouched by the coronavirus, a tiny number of those infected are finding themselves in intensive care with serious health complications after developing Kawasaki disease. Up to 100 children in the UK have been affected by it.
Ongoing studies suggest the same reaction is being monitored across Europe.
So far, it is unclear what causes Kawasaki disease, but it is widely accepted as being the result of a delayed immune response to COVID-19.
Eight children have become ill with the disease in London, a 14-year-old having died.
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.
The majority 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.
In 2005 scientists at Yale University conducted a study in which they discovered a newly documented strain of coronavirus, HCoV-NH.
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The paper noted how Kawasaki diseases aetiology – the cause or manner of causation of a disease – was unknown.
The team identified evidence of a novel human coronavirus which they dubbed “New Haven coronavirus” (HCoV-NH) in the respiratory secretions of a 6-month-old infant who had Kawasaki disease.
In order to determine whether the presence of coronavirus in the infant was an anomaly, the team launched a case-controlled study.
This consisted of 11 children who had Kawasaki disease.
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Of the group, eight (72.7 percent) tested positive for HCoV-NH.
Separately, out of 22 further control subjects the researchers tested – children without Kawasaki disease matched by age and the time the specimens were obtained – one tested positive for HCoV-NH.
The bombshell investigation led the team of scientists to conclude that: “These data suggest that HCoV-NH infection is associated with Kawasaki disease.”
Kawasaki disease is usually more prevalent in children under the age of 5.
But, the new resurgence of the disease appears to be affecting older children up to the age of 16.
A minority of these cases are experiencing serious complications.
Professor Russel Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, explained that the majority of children who have had the condition responded to treatment and have gotten better.
He told the BBC: “The syndrome is exceptionally rare.
“This shouldn’t stop parents letting their children exit lockdown.”
He said understanding more about the inflammatory disease “might explain why some children become very ill with COVID-19, while the majority are unaffected or asymptomatic”.
Children make up just one to two percent of all coronavirus infections.
This accounts for less than 500 hospital admissions.
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