May 14, 2020 - Health

Doctors in Italian hospital report "30-fold" jump in kids with inflammatory symptoms

In this image, a young boy wears a face mask and flips through an art book
A child sits in a primary school classroom inside a gym in Borgosesia, Italy. Photo: Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

A hospital in the epicenter of Italy's coronavirus outbreak has seen a 30-fold increase of children with severe inflammatory symptoms most often associated with Kawasaki-like disease, according to a study published Wednesday in the medical journal The Lancet.

Why it matters: This is one of the first completed studies to examine the rise of an inflammatory illness that is affecting children — some of whom have tested positive for the coronavirus or its antibodies.

What they found: 7 boys and 3 girls, all aged 5 to 7 years old, were diagnosed with Kawasaki from February 18 to April 20. They were admitted to the hospital, on average, after six days of prolonged fever.

  • In the last five years, that hospital treated a total of 19 patients for those symptoms, the study finds.
  • Eight of the children who were admitted to the hospital since February tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies.

Symptoms for patients up to 21 years old, experiencing what doctors are calling "pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome," include:

    • Persistent fever and inflammation
    • Abnormal, sudden or rapid heart rhythm
    • Rash
    • Diarrhea and vomiting
    • Weak pulse and rapid breathing
    • Dizziness or loss of consciousness

The big picture: There have been at least 50 cases of the inflammatory symptoms throughout Europe, the New York Times reports, including in Switzerland, France, Britain and Spain. New York has reported 102 cases and three deaths as of Wednesday.

The bottom line: Doctors behind the study expect a "similar outbreak of Kawasaki-like disease" in countries experiencing coronavirus outbreaks.

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