Europe

UK 'very worried' about possible link between rare syndrome and coronavirus in children

Concern is spreading across Europe about a new disease possibly linked to coronavirus in children. Source: AP

The state-run National Health Service issued an alert at the weekend about a small number of children presenting with an unusual set of symptoms.

Britain's health minister says he is "very worried" at signs of a coronavirus-related syndrome emerging in children but is stressing more research is needed and the condition remains very rare.

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

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.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock has voiced concerns about the rare syndrome.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock has voiced concerns about the rare syndrome.
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He added: "It's a new disease that we think may be caused by coronavirus and the COVID-19 virus."

But Mr 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.

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.

The national medical director for NHS England, Stephen Powis, said on Monday it was "too early to say" whether the new disease was linked to coronavirus but the issue was being looked into urgently.

England's chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said it was "entirely plausible" that it was linked to COVID-19.

Children have died from coronavirus but serious complications are rare.

"Evidence from throughout the world shows us that children appear to be the part of the population least affected by this infection," said Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

But he added: "New diseases may present in ways that surprise us, and clinicians need to be made aware of any emerging evidence of particular symptoms or of underlying conditions which could make a patient more vulnerable to the virus."

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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