An alarm has set off in the medical community with reports of a deadly complication associated with COVID-19 affecting mainly children, which in certain ways resemble Kawasaki disease, in the United States, Europe and many other parts of the world. Incidentally in Hong Kong, there are also at least three children with Kawasaki disease that were tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies.
As classes are set to gradually resume, many parents are concerned of this complication as children may not be able to maintain constant alert for disease prevention in school. So, what exactly is this complication and to what extend should we be concerned?
At this point, not much is known about this complication, but the name is formally labelled as pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (PMIS) potentially associated with COVID-19.
Many of the children suffering from this disease were found to have antibodies to COVID-19 in their blood, although they may or may not have presented with the symptoms of the virus. They may fall sick all of a sudden without any prior warning sign. The main clinical features include high fever, rash, conjunctivitis, difficulty in breathing, and in extreme cases, cardiac arrest. The young patients often deteriorate very rapidly, and some even require intensive care.
The origin is still not known, but many of the clinical features resemble those of Kawasaki disease, and some medical experts believe the mechanism of the two diseases may be similar. This may be due to the immune system of the body has in a way overreacted to the virus infection and induced inflammation of normal organs of the body such as the heart and kidneys.
There is no effective therapy yet. The mainstay of treatment is still supportive care to maintain body function, so that the body can recover slowly by itself. From what is known, the vast majority of patients suffering from this disease will recover, although mortalities have also been reported.
Finally, it should be emphasized that PMIS is rare in occurrence. The most pragmatic way to avoid getting of this deadly disease is minimising the chance of contracting COVID-19 by, again, wearing masks, regular hand hygiene and being vigilant with social distancing.