Researchers in the UK say they have seen an “unprecedented cluster” of eight children with rare inflammatory problems amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The cases, they said, bear resemblance to a severe form of Kawasaki disease – a rare condition that causes inflammation in the walls of the arteries and can limit blood flow to the heart.
All of the children were previously fit and well, the researchers said in a study published Wednesday.
Five of the children received mechanical ventilation through a tube in their windpipes, and one was put on an ECMO machine – a device that takes over for the heart and lungs.
Seven of the children survived, and one died from a stroke. Four of the children had known exposure to coronavirus, and two eventually tested positive. Six of the children were of Afro-Caribbean descent, and five were boys.
In the study, published in the medical journal The Lancet, the researchers said the case cluster formed the basis of a national alert. In late April, Britain’s National Health Service sent an “urgent alert” to doctors saying they had seen cases of atypical Kawasaki disease that could be linked to coronavirus.
As their study went to press, the researchers said they had treated more than 20 children with similar signs. The first 10 of these children tested positive for coronavirus antibodies – including the eight who made up the original “cluster” of cases. That suggests they had been exposed to the virus in the past, even if their diagnostic test came back negative at the time.
“We suggest that this clinical picture represents a new phenomenon affecting previously asymptomatic children with SARS-CoV-2 infection manifesting as a hyperinflammatory syndrome with multiorgan involvement similar to Kawasaki disease shock syndrome,” the researchers wrote.
Separately, the New York State Department of Health issued an advisory to healthcare providers about a similar syndrome. The state said that as of May 5, it had received 64 potential cases of the condition, called Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome Associated with COVID-19.
“The inflammatory syndrome has features which overlap with Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome and may occur days to weeks after acute COVID-19 illness. It can include persistent fever, abdominal symptoms, rash, and even cardiovascular symptoms requiring intensive care,” the New York health department said in a statement.