Alert issued as children hospitalised with severe coronavirus-related illness

Patients are suffering from cardiac inflammation and abdominal pain

UK health officials have issued an urgent alert to family doctors after an unspecified number of children were admitted to intensive care units with serious coronavirus-related symptoms.

The children were suffering from abdominal pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, cardiac inflammation and blood test results consistent with severe Covid-19 infections.

The patients also showed overlapping signs of toxic shock syndrome and atypical Kawasaki Disease, which causes blood vessels to become swollen and inflamed and can lead to cardiac issues.

Not all of the children have tested positive for Covid-19 although many have.

The alert was issued by a clinical commissioning group in London and shared online by the Paediatric Intensive Care Society. Family doctors have been urged to be vigilant and refer children to emergency care and specialists.

“Over the last 3 weeks there has been [an] apparent rise in the number of children of all ages presenting with a multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care across London and also in other regions of the UK.” the alert says.

“There is a growing concern that a SARS-CoV-2 related inflammatory syndrome [is] emerging in children in the UK or that there may be another as yet unidentified infectious pathogen associated with these cases,” it adds.

SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus strain that caused the Covid-19 outbreak.

The news has caused alarm online with Dr Elizabeth Whittaker, a paediatrician in infectious diseases and immunology at St Mary’s Hospital in London, saying that Italian and Spanish colleagues are reporting similar cases.

“Numbers are small but significant,” Dr Whittaker wrote on Twitter. “We want primary care (and) A&E to be vigilant so those affected are in the right place to get appropriate supportive care if needed.”

But confusion remains as to why the NHS has not made their concerns public with some in the medical community criticising the lack of communication.

NHS England said there is no evidence so far of a confirmed link between Kawasaki-related diseases and Covid-19 complications in children.

“Thankfully Kawasaki-like diseases are very rare, as currently are serious complications in children related to Covid-19, but it is important that clinicians are made aware of any potential emerging links so that they are able to give children and young people the right care fast,” said professor Simon Kenny, NHS national clinical director for children and young people.