COVID-19: WHO warns of ‘mysterious inflammatory disease in children’

World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus at the coronavirus press conference in Geneva
World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus at the coronavirus press conference in Geneva

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has alerted the world over the possible emergence of a rare inflammatory disease in children that may be linked to the coronavirus.

This was disclosed during a news conference at the agency’s headquarters, Geneva, on Friday.

The Head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, Maria Kerkhove, said, “World health officials are increasingly hearing about cases of an inflammatory disease similar to Kawasaki disease in a few countries, including the United States and Italy.”

The WHO official said initial reports hypothesised that this syndrome, which can cause high fever and swelling in blood vessels, may be related to COVID-19.

“We need more information collected in a systematic way because with the initial reports, we’re getting a description of what this looks like, which is not always the same,” Ms Kerkhove said. “And in some children, they tested positive for COVID-19 and other children have not. So we do not know if this is associated with COVID-19.”

Ms Kerkhove said officials raised the alert among the WHO’s global clinical network, which is a group of clinicians across the world dealing with COVID-19 patients.

Kawasaki disease is explained as an illness that causes blood vessels to become inflamed, almost always in young children. It’s one of the leading causes of heart disease in kids. But doctors can treat it if they find it early and most children recover without any problems.

Some of its symptoms are said to include a rash and fever, high fever and peeling skin. In late stages, there may be inflammation of medium-sized blood vessels (vasculitis). It also affects lymph nodes, skin and mucous membranes, such as inside the mouth.

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Meanwhile, in his remarks, WHO director-general, Tedros Ghebreyes, said working with its global clinical network, “the WHO has developed a preliminary case definition and a case report form for Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (PMIS).”

“I call on all clinicians worldwide to work with your national authorities and WHO to be on the alert and better understand this syndrome in children,” he said.

According to CNBC news, early in the outbreak, researchers and infectious disease experts said the virus appeared to be sparing children “while hitting the elderly and those with underlying health conditions particularly hard.”

Since then, researchers have learned much more about the virus, including that children do get it and can die from it, even without underlying conditions that tend to worsen symptoms.

Most kids report mild respiratory symptoms, namely fever, dry cough and fatigue. However, some children can become seriously ill, CNBC news said.

It said in New York, local health officials are investigating 110 cases of the disease they are calling pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, adding that 16 other states across the U.S. and six European countries are also investigating the disease.

However, the WHO officials last month, said they were investigating whether the coronavirus causes Kawasaki disease in children after several cases cropped up in Europe.

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