Doctors in London alerted to 'coronavirus-related condition' emerging in children

An urgent alert has been issued to doctors about a rise in children being admitted to intensive care due to a ‘coronavirus-related condition.’

The alert, seen by the Health Service Journal, says there has been a rise in children ‘of all ages’ presenting a ‘multi-system inflamatory’ state across London and other parts of the UK in the last three weeks.

Initially sent to GPs in London, the alert says: “There is a growing concern that a (Covid-19) 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.”

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The Paediatric Intensive Care Society (PICS) reissued the alert on Sunday night and said the syndrome has the characteristics of serious Covid-19 in children, and that abdominal pain and gastrointestinal symptoms, like vomiting and diarrhoea, have been seen by doctors.

Medics have also warned the cases have features of toxic shock syndrome and ‘atypical Kawasaki Disease,’ an inflammatory condition that attacks blood vessels and the heart.

These conditions can cause fever, harmful swelling and breathing problems – all symptoms of coronavirus – but, as it appears to be a completely new condition, the exact warning signs are unclear.

The alert to GPs, marked “significant alert,” also states: “Please refer children presenting with these symptoms as a matter of urgency.”

‘Potential emerging links’

A child wearing a face mask.

Both Kawasaki-related diseases and covid-related complications in children are very rare, and as yet this is no confirmed link between the two.

The alert is a standard way of making sure clinicians are made aware of any potential emerging links so that they are able to give children and young people the right investigations and care fast.

Professor Simon Kenny, NHS England national clinical director for children and young people, said: “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.

“The advice to parents remains the same: if you are worried about your child for whatever reason, contact NHS 111 or your family doctor for urgent advice, or 999 in an emergency, and if a professional tells you to go to hospital, please go to hospital.”

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The Health Service Journal reports that little is known so far about the issue or how widespread it has been, although the number of children affected is thought to be small, according to paediatrics sources.

It is understood some of the children with the bug have tested positive for Covid-19, with some appearing to have had the virus in the past, but some haven’t had it at all.

The fact that many fewer children than adults have had serious illness with the coronavirus or died remains the case.

Based on the limited information available, children tend to have mild symptoms or may even be asymptomatic.

The alert was first sent to GPs in North London by their clinical commissioning group, and was later reissued more widely by PICS.

PICS has also advised “early discussion” of possible cases “with regional paediatric infectious disease and critical care teams.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are aware of a very small number of cases in England, involving children, who have become seriously unwell with Covid-19 like symptoms that some clinicians in England have been alerted to.

“While serious complications in children related to Covid-19 are very rare, it is important that clinicians are made aware of any potential emerging links so they are able to give children and young people the right care as fast as possible. We are working closely with Public Health England to ensure the right information is shared consistently across the UK.”