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Doctors warned of new 'coronavirus-related' condition in children

More than a dozen children have been hospitalised in intensive care units in the UK with unusual symptoms which doctors fear are linked to coronavirus.

Health authorities in Britain are warning of a potential new coronavirus-related syndrome that appears to be emerging in children in the country which includes symptoms such as a sore stomach and heart problems.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told reporters overnight that he was “very worried” by the development, which is being investigated by senior medical scientists in the country.

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British doctors say the rare cases which have seen children require intensive care may be linked to COVID-19. Source: Getty
British doctors say the rare cases which have seen children require intensive care may be linked to COVID-19. Source: Getty Images

Cases have reportedly been building in recent weeks, with the Health Service Journal revealing National Health Service (NHS) bosses sent letters to doctors in London warning them of their concerns about the apparent new syndrome.

“It has been reported that over the last three 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 letter said.

“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.”

In describing the condition, the NHS note said: “Abdominal pain and gastrointestinal symptoms have been a common feature, as has cardiac inflammation.”

The children presenting with the symptoms resemble Kawasaki disease, a syndrome which causes inflammation of blood vessels in the body resulting in a rash or swollen glands, and largely affects children under five.

Some of the children with the symptoms had tested positive for COVID-19 while others had tested negative.

The Paediatric Intensive Care Society in the UK, which distributed the NHS note to doctors, said in a statement that the children presented an “unusual clinical picture” and stressed cases were very rare.

“If you are a parent, please be assured that serious illness as a result of COVID-19 still appears to be a very rare event in children. If your child is unwell or has the symptoms of sepsis, then please seek medical attention in the usual way,” the group said.

Report raises new questions about effects of coronavirus

So far younger children seemed to have escaped the worst of the coronavirus pandemic with severe symptoms far less likely to manifest in children under the age of 15. But the latest news underscores the limited amount medical scientists still understand about the ongoing affects of the new coronavirus.

UK's Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock said he was 'very worried' by the development.  Source: Getty
Britain's Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock said he was 'very worried' by the development. Source: Getty

England’s national medical director Stephen Powis said it was “really too early” to say whether there is a link between the severe inflammatory symptoms seen around London and the novel coronavirus.

Queensland University virologist Ian Mackay said it will take time for researchers to understand and substantiate any potential link with COVID-19.

“This damn virus raises new questions faster than we can hope to answer them. We'll need time to understand this,” he said, referring to the NHS report.

The news comes as the Australian federal government pushes for children to return to classrooms across the states and territories.

During an interview on ABC radio on Tuesday morning to urge state premiers to get students back into classrooms, Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan was asked if he was worried by the reports coming out of the UK.

“What the Australian government has done all along is follow the medical experts here in Australia,” Mr Tehan said.

“They are monitoring what is occurring overseas, they are monitoring studies which are undertaken by the World Health Organisation, and by others, and they continue to update their advice on a daily and weekly basis to all governments ... Now they are looking at all these studies and all these researchers,” he said.

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