Story at a glance

  • Kawasaki disease is a rare childhood illness that causes the walls of blood vessels in the body to become inflamed.
  • Reports of children with the condition infected with COVID-19 have come out of the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and the U.S.
  • Doctors aren’t entirely sure if it is in fact Kawasaki disease or a similar condition.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is investigating a possible link between the coronavirus and a rare inflammatory condition found in children similar to Kawasaki disease, according to NBC News.

“We are aware of this newly described syndrome from a number of countries in Europe and potentially a small number of cases in North America,” Adam Finn, chairman of the WHO’s European Technical Advisory Group, said during a news briefing Thursday.

“We are urgently conducting a surveillance study in the United Kingdom to establish what is going on,” he said. 

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Kawasaki disease is a rare childhood illness that causes the walls of blood vessels in the body to become inflamed. Symptoms include high temperature that lasts for five days or longer, redness in both eyes, rash and swollen glands in the neck. Children younger than 5 are most at risk. 

The investigation from the WHO comes after Britain’s Paediatric Intensive Care Society warned earlier this week that doctors in the U.K. are seeing an increase in the number of children with symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease. Health officials said the condition has been observed in children who have tested positive for COVID-19, and others who did not.

Similar reports have come from health officials in Spain and Italy, with Italian physicians reporting an unusual increase in the number of patients with Kawasaki disease, including some children who had COVID-19 or contact with confirmed cases. 

Finn said the WHO was aware of about 20 cases in London and elsewhere in the U.K.

“Only around half these children are testing positive for coronavirus so at this point we are not completely clear as to the causal relationship although this may be a late complication of the infection with a hyperinflammatory syndrome of some kind,” Finn said. 

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In the U.S., at least three children who tested positive for the coronavirus in New York have also experienced a rare inflammatory condition, but doctors said the cases were likely not Kawasaki disease, according to Reuters.

The cases in New York come after a report from Stanford University, where a 6 month old who was hospitalized with Kawasaki disease later tested positive for COVID-19. While the cause of Kawasaki disease is unknown, several pathogens have been suggested as a possible trigger, including some coronaviruses, Reuters reports.


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Published on May 01, 2020