A VERY small number of children across the island of Ireland are presenting with symptoms of a possible inflammatory condition that could be linked to COVID-19.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has confirmed to the Irish Times that fewer than five children across both Ireland and Northern Ireland have been admitted to hospital with the symptoms.
Irish paediatricians were initially told to keep a close eye out for cases of the rare but dangerous reaction after the UK reported a small number of cases in which hospitals treated severely sick children with "multi-system inflammation" requiring intensive care and other flu-like symptoms.
Some, but not all of the children treated, have tested positive for coronavirus.
The HSE has since sent out an urgent alert to senior medics and public health experts after receiving advice about the condition from the UK health service.
The illness is described as sharing similarities with toxic shock syndrome or Kawasaki disease, a condition common in parts of Asia, that can afflict children under the age of five.
Kawasaki disease is associated with skin rashes, fever and the swelling of glands.
Some have also experienced gastrointestinal symptoms like tummy pain, vomiting or diarrhoea.
In more severe cases, it can lead to the inflammation of arteries in the heart as well as abnormal blood test results.
Despite the serious nature of the alert and symptoms linked with the condition, children’s health experts have been keen to stress that incidence of the condition in children remain very low.
The risks of developing the condition also remains extremely low while a definite link to COVID-19 has yet to be established.
Professor Karina Butler, a a consultant paediatrician and infectious disease expert at Children’s Health Ireland (CHI), told the Irish Times a very small number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children had been reported in Ireland with an even small number of ICU admissions and no deaths.
On the subject of this new condition, Dr Butler said:
“It’s right we know about it to guide us in terms of our investigations, but it’s not likely that it’s going to be a common event. It’s a rare thing, but it’s an important rare thing to know about.”
Dr Nazima Pathan, a consultant in Paediatric Intensive Care in Cambridge, was also keen to allay any concerns, telling the Irish Independent that colleagues in Spain and Italy had been reporting similar cases but children remain largely resilient to the virus.
"Some of the children have presented with a septic shock type illness and rashes - the kind of presentation we would expect to see in toxic shock syndrome and Kawasaki disease (which affects blood vessels and the heart),” Dr Pathan siad.
"Overall, children seem to be more resilient to serious lung infection following exposure to coronavirus, and the numbers admitted to intensive care units are relatively low."
The advice remains to stay vigilant of any possible symptoms and seek medical attention if required.