KIDS are at risk of heart damage if doctors misdiagnose Kawasaki disease as Covid-19, experts are warning.
THE NHS has urged GPs to be on the lookout for a new “inflammatory syndrome” linked to coronavirus which has similar symptoms to Kawasaki disease, a condition which usually affects children under five years old that causes inflammation to the heart.
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However, a group of doctors advising Societi, the UK Kawasaki Disease Foundation, believe a number of cases of Kawasaki disease may now be being misdiagnosed as Covid-19, raising the possibility of heart damage in the affected children.
It comes after NHS England said there have been 20 children in the UK treated in intensive care for the Kawasaki disease-like illness.
Societi, which includes doctors from Great Ormond Street and Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, said on Tuesday: "Kawasaki disease is a seasonal inflammatory disorder peaking in the winter and spring, and whilst no infection has ever been proven to be the sole trigger, the scientific community believe that any one of many infections may trigger Kawasaki disease in susceptible children.
"We are aware of recent delayed presentations of Kawasaki disease because of initial incorrect diagnoses of Covid-19, resulting in adverse coronary outcomes due to delayed institution of treatment.
"During the last Sars epidemic, the same links to new cases of Kawasaki disease were reported, but these have since been disproven."
Initial incorrect diagnoses of Covid-19 have resulted in adverse coronary outcomes
The group are now urging medics and parents not to always assume symptoms are linked to coronavirus.
This is because Kawasaki disease causes inflammation to the heart which can lead to aneurysms, heart attack and heart disease.
In rare cases, patients with Kawasaki disease can suffer internal bleeding if an aneurysm bursts.
Around 25 per cent of cases go on to experience heart complications, which can result in fatality in about two to three per cent of cases, if not treated.
Professor Rob Tulloh, who sits on the Societi's scientific advisory board, told i: "We are not aware of the numbers of cases, but we have anecdotal reports from around the country of infants and children who are presenting late with Kawasaki disease and who have nasty complications as a result.
"Our concern is that they are being thought to have Covid-19 and we wish to encourage doctors and parents to think that there might be other causes of prolonged fever apart from Covid-19 and to think of conditions such as Kawasaki disease as the cause."
The signs to watch out for
Health chiefs said in an alert to GPs the signs include:
- Stomach pain
- Gastrointestinal symptoms – like vomiting and diarrhoea
Meanwhile, the mysterious condition has been compared to toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and Kawasaki disease.
The signs of TSS are:
- High temperature
- Flu-like symptoms, like headache, feeling cold, aches, sore throat and cough
- Feeling and being sick
- Widespread burn-like rash
- Lips, tongue, and whites of the eyes turning bright red
- Dizziness or fainting
- Difficulty breathing
Signs of Kawasaki disease include:
- A rash
- Swollen glands in the neck
- Dry, cracked lips
- Red fingers or toes
- Red eyes
And Prof Tulloh urged medics not to miss the signs of Kawasaki disease which causes "a high persistent fever, in mostly young children, along with a rash, swollen glands, red eyes, sore mouth, cracked lips and red fingers/toes."
He added: "It can be wrongly diagnosed as Covid-19 and doctors should be aware that Covid-19 does not usually cause cracked lips and it usually spares young children.
"Treatment needs to be given at five days in order to minimise the risk of severe complications."
The Paediatric Intensive Care Society said the new condition affecting kids has features of toxic shock syndrome and atypical Kawasaki disease.
Its alert, sent to GPs and health chiefs, said: "There is growing concern that a Covid-19 related inflammatory syndrome is emerging.
"Please refer children presenting with these symptoms as a matter of urgency."
'A matter of urgency'
Some, but not all kids with signs of this new condition have tested positive for coronavirus.
But, it’s not yet clear if there is a direct link with Covid-19.
Public Health England are investigating, as NHS England’s medical director Prof Stephen Powis said: “It is really too early to say whether there is a link.”
England’s Chief Medical Officer, Prof Chris Whitty added: “This is a very rare situation, but I think it is entirely plausible that it is caused by this virus, at least in some cases.”
So far, it seems the most common symptoms of this new condition are tummy symptoms (tummy pain, diarrhoea and vomiting) and heart symptoms (you might notice shortness of breath, fast heart rate, looking pale or clammy, a blue tinge round the lips etc.)
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If you are worried your child could be suffering from the symptoms, it is important to seek medical advice, as soon as possible.
Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical director of Patientaccess.com, told The Sun: "The NHS is very much open for business.
"If you have a child who is seriously unwell, you should call an ambulance – your child is much better off in hospital if they’re seriously unwell."
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