Doctors Warn of Illness Possibly Linked to Coronavirus in Children

    30 April 2020

    Doctors in Britain, Italy and Spain have been warned to look out for a rare inflammatory condition in children. The condition is possibly linked to the new coronavirus.

    Earlier this week, Britain's Paediatric Intensive Care Society sent a notice to the country's doctors. It said that in the past three weeks, there has been an increase in the number of children with "a multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care."

    The group said there was "growing concern" that the condition is related to COVID 19, the disease caused by the virus. However, the group also suggested a different, unidentified disease might be responsible.

    A family wearing face mask to protect of the coronavirus go for a walk, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Sunday, April 27, 2020. On Sunday, children under 14 years old will be allowed to take walks with a parent for up to one hour.
    A family wearing face mask to protect of the coronavirus go for a walk, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Sunday, April 27, 2020. On Sunday, children under 14 years old will be allowed to take walks with a parent for up to one hour.

    Russell Viner is the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. He told the Associated Press: "We already know that a very small number of children can become severely ill with COVID-19 but this is very rare."

    Viner added that the condition was likely caused by an overreaction of the body's natural defenses, or immune system. And he noted similar symptoms had been seen in some adults infected with the coronavirus. The cases were also reported to have qualities similar to a rare blood vessel disorder known as Kawasaki disease. Symptoms of Kawasaki disease include a high body temperature that lasts for five days or more. They also include skin conditions and swollen parts of the neck.

    Only some of the children tested positive for COVID-19. So scientists are unsure if these rare symptoms are caused by the new coronavirus or by something else. Health officials estimate there have been about ten to 20 such cases in Britain and NHS England said it is urgently investigating the reports.

    Viner said that doctors were considering other possible causes for the syndrome, including other viruses or new medicines. But they are treating the cases as if they are "COVID-related."

    Spain's Association of Pediatrics recently made a similar warning. It told doctors that in recent weeks, there had been a number of school-age children suffering from "unusual" stomach pain, along with other stomach issues. These issues could lead within hours to shock, low blood pressure and heart problems, the group noted.

    The group urged doctors to recognize the symptoms and send these patients to a hospital.

    In Italy, Angelo Ravelli of Gaslini Hospital and a member of the Italian Pediatrics Society, sent a note to 10,000 medical experts raising his concerns. Ravelli and his team reported an unusual increase in the number of patients with Kawasaki disease in parts of Italy hit hard by the coronavirus. He noted some children had COVID-19 or had contacts with confirmed virus cases.

    "These children do not respond to traditional treatment," he said, adding that some were given a large amount of the drug known as steroids.

    James Gill is with Warwick Medical School. He said while the reports were concerning, there was still no hard evidence that the rare syndrome was caused by COVID-19.

    "Regardless of source, multi-system inflammatory diseases are ... serious for children and ... intensive care teams, so keeping an extra eye out for new symptoms arising in the patients we see is always a good thing," he said.

    Some possible cases have also been reported in France and Belgium.

    To date, children have been among the least affected group by the coronavirus. Data from more than 75,000 cases in China showed they represented 2.4 percent of all cases and mostly suffered only mild symptoms.

    The World Health Organization said it was attempting to gather more information on any new, coronavirus-related syndrome in children. But it had not received any official reports about it so far.

    I'm Pete Musto.

    Maria Cheng, Aritz Parra, Andrea Foa and Lindsey Tanner reported on this story for the Associated Press. Pete Musto adapted it for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.


    Words in This Story

    inflammatoryadj. causing or having

    symptom(s) – n. a condition in which a part of your body becomes red, swollen, and painful

    swollenadj. the state of being larger than normal

    syndromen. a disease or disorder that involves a particular group of signs and symptoms

    respondv. to have a good or desired reaction to something

    mildadj. not harsh or severe