WHO raises alert on mysterious inflammatory disease in children that may be linked to coronavirus


Kids in a queue while wearing face masks during the food distribution amid Coronavirus COVID 19.

Ajay Kumar | SOPA Images | Getty Images

Doctors and world leaders need “to be on the alert” for cases of a rare inflammatory disease in children that may be linked to the coronavirus, the World Health Organization said Friday.

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, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said during a press conference at the agency’s Geneva headquarters.

WHO said initial reports hypothesized 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,” 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.” 

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

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. 

In New York, local health officials are investigating 110 cases of the disease they are calling pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome. So far, 16 other states across the U.S. and six European countries are also investigating the disease.

World Health Organization officials said last month they were investigating whether the coronavirus causes Kawasaki disease in children after several cases cropped up in Europe.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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