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What is Kawasaki disease and is it linked to coronavirus?

What is Kawasaki disease and is it linked to coronavirus?

So far children have largely been spared from serious illness from COVID-19. But there are new concerns for the young after critically-ill children have been admitted to intensive care units in recent weeks with shock-like symptoms.

What is Kawasaki disease and is it linked to coronavirus?

There have been reports of children hospitalised in the UK, Italy and the US with a mysterious inflammatory disease.

In New York, the inflammatory illness has killed a teenager and two children under eight years old.

Medical experts believe it could be toxic shock syndrome, but many of the symptoms also resemble those of the rare childhood illness called Kawasaki disease.

Kawasaki disease is most common in children under the age of five. It causes a high fever that lasts for at least five days, and if left untreated, about one in five children with the illness will suffer damage to their heart.

Other symptoms can include a rash on the body which is often worse in the groin area, irritated red eyes, an enlarged reddened tongue, reddened or dry lips, redness and/or swelling of the hands and feet, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, or peeling of the hands and feet (usually later in the illness).

The cause is unknown. There is no single test that can diagnose Kawasaki disease and a diagnosis can be difficult to make.

According to Mark Hicar, assistant professor at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, drawing connections between Kawasaki disease and COVID-19 “may be premature”.

“There are a number of reasons why the new COVID-19-associated inflammatory disorder and Kawasaki disease seem to be different entities,” he said.

These include different laboratory results and symptoms, and the ages and locations of the described new cases not being typical for Kawasaki disease, among other differences.

Robert Booy, a Kawasaki disease expert from the University of Sydney, told The New Day it is not necessarily a case of COVID-19 causing Kawasaki disease; rather when both appear in the same patient the chances of severe complications are still rare but higher.

“The cases in New York are a consequence of a large number of children getting infected [with the virus] and a very small number of them having an unusual inflammation reaction to the virus,” Professor Booy explained.

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