Coronavirus-linked Kawasaki disease killing more children: A pandemic risk for young?
There have been 73 reported cases in New York where children are experiencing symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock-like syndrome possibly due to COVID-19.
A rare inflammatory syndrome believed to be linked to the novel coronavirus has now claimed the lives of three children in New York in a development that may pose a newly emerging risk for children.
Governor Andrew Cuomo on Saturday said that the syndrome that shares symptoms with toxic shock and Kawasaki disease had taken the lives of at least three young people across the state. He did not provide details of their ages or the circumstances of their deaths.
He had on Friday disclosed the death of a 5-year old due to the syndrome. Children had previously been thought to be largely immune to severe illness from COVID-19 -- the respiratory disease caused by the virus.
He said state health officials were reviewing 73 cases where children exposed to COVID-19 also exhibited symptoms of the syndrome, which he said included inflammation of the blood vessels, which in turn could cause heart problems.
Cuomo said the children happened to test positive for COVID-19 or the antibodies against it, "but those were not the symptoms they showed when they came into the hospital system."
Calling it a "truly disturbing" development, the governor said people had been labouring under the impression that young people were not at risk from the coronavirus.
"We are not so sure that is the fact anymore," he said. "It's very possible that this has been going on for several weeks and it hasn't been diagnosed as related to COVID."
WHAT IS KAWASAKI DISEASE?
Kawasaki disease, whose cause is unknown, often afflicts children aged under 5 and is associated with fever, skin rashes, swelling of glands, and in severe cases, inflammation of arteries of the heart. There is some evidence that individuals can inherit a predisposition to the disease, but the pattern is not clear.
The syndrome shares symptoms with toxic shock and Kawasaki disease. Scientists are still trying to determine whether the syndrome is linked with the new coronavirus because not all children with it have tested positive for the virus.
Kawasaki disease was anecdotally linked 16 years ago to another known coronavirus, though it was never proven. The research was carried out after another, related coronavirus known as NL63 was found in a baby showing symptoms of Kawasaki disease in 2004.
Governor Cuomo said New York's health department had partnered with the New York Genome Center and the Rockefeller University to look at whether there is a genetic basis for the syndrome, cases of which were first reported in Britain, Italy and Spain.
And he said the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had asked New York to develop national criteria for identifying and responding to the syndrome.
New York is the epicentre of the pandemic in the United States, accounting for more than a third of the 78,794 American deaths from COVID-19. The state has over 335,890 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 26,000 deaths.
The State Department of Health has issued an advisory about the serious inflammatory disease.
Parents have been advised to seek immediate care if a child has prolonged fever (more than five days), difficulty feeding (in infants) or is too sick to drink fluids, severe abdominal pain, diarrhoea or vomiting, change in skin colour, trouble breathing, lethargy, irritability or confusion.
New York State Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said with each passing day "we're learning more about this terrible virus, and this potentially new development requires even greater understanding. We'll devote the resources of the department to research each potential case and share our findings with healthcare providers around the state and country".
So far, the US has highest number of deaths and cases related to the deadly coronavirus.