UK raises alarm over virus-related syndrome in children

LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s Health Minister said yesterday he was “very worried” at signs of a coronavirus-related syndrome emerging in children but stressed it needed more research and remained very rare.

The state-run National Health Service (NHS) issued an alert at the weekend about a small number of children presenting an unusual set of symptoms, including abdominal pain and inflammation around the heart.

In this handout photo provided by 10 Downing Street, Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing on the coronavirus outbreak, in Downing Street, London, Tuesday, April 28, 2020. (PHOTO: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street via AP)

They have required admission to intensive care, according to a report in the Health Service Journal. “I’m very worried about the early signs that in rare cases, there is an impact of an auto-immune response in children that causes a significant disease,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told LBC radio.

He added, “It’s a new disease that we think may be caused by coronavirus and the COVID-19 virus.” But Hancock said that while some of the children who have this new disease tested positive for the virus, others had not. “We’re doing a lot of research now. What I would also stress is that it is rare. Although it is very significant for those children who do get it, the number of cases is small,” he said.

The Guardian newspaper reported that there had been at least 12 cases.

According to the Paediatric Intensive Care Society, the NHS alert warned of common overlapping features of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and atypical Kawasaki disease and blood parameters consistent with severe COVID-19.

TSS is a serious illness associated with infections while Kawasaki causes blood vessels to become inflamed and is mostly found in children under the age of five.