Kawasaki disease: Dozens of children hospitalized with coronavirus-linked syndrome

Update May 7, 2020, 9:30 a.m. ET: Sixty-four children have been hospitalized in New York with what appears to be a coronavirus-linked syndrome that causes severe inflammation. New York City health authorities issued an alert this week saying that they were seeing children who had a syndrome that doctors do not yet fully understand.

Original story:

An increase in a rare inflammatory syndrome is being seen in children in the United Kingdom and Italy, according to reports from health officials who say it may be linked to the COVID-19 virus.

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Researchers are investigating a possible link between COVID-19 and Kawasaki disease. Kawasaki disease inflames blood vessels, causing them to leak. Once that happens, blood pressure drops and fluid builds up in the lungs.

Some of the children who have died from the syndrome had no underlying health conditions, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Tuesday. Hancock did not say how many children had died.

On Sunday, an "urgent alert" was tweeted from the National Health Service England about an increase in cases of critically ill children who had "overlapping features of toxic shock syndrome and atypical Kawasaki disease with blood parameters.”

Some of the children tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, health officials said.

According to the alert, during the last three weeks, "There has been an apparent rise in the number of children of all ages presenting with a multisystem inflammatory state requiring intensive care across London and also in other regions of the UK.”

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“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,” Hancock said.

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In addition to the cases in the UK, instances of Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome – a condition where toxins from an overgrowth of bacteria are released in the body – have been seen in Italy where the new coronavirus hit particularly hard. Health officials in northern Italy say they have seen an extraordinary number of cases in children younger than 9 years old.

Despite the warning, UK officials said the risk of children developing Kawasaki is very low.

"Thankfully Kawasaki-like diseases are very rare, as currently are serious complications in children related to Covid-19, but it is important that clinicians are made aware of any potential emerging links so that they are able to give children and young people the right care fast," Professor Simon Kenny, NHS national clinical director for children and young people said in a statement sent to CNN.

What are the symptoms of Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome?

Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome show up quickly and can be devastating. Many of the symptoms overlap, as health officials are seeing in the cases showing up in children now.

The symptoms that the two disorders share include:

  • Fever above 101 F that doesn’t respond to medication for several days
  • Rash and/or peeling skin, often between the chest and legs and near the genitals, and later on the fingers and toes
  • Swelling and redness in hands and bottoms of feet, followed by sloughing of skin of hands and feet
  • Redness in the eyes
  • Enlarged glands, especially in the neck
  • Irritated throat, inner mouth, and lips
  • Swollen, bright red “strawberry tongue”
  • Joint pain
  • Stomach trouble, with diarrhea and vomiting

Some researchers believe that the presence of Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome may be the second phase of the COVID-19 viral infection as the body launches a post-infection inflammatory response.