Rare, potentially deadly illness in children prompts alert to Canadian doctors

TORONTO — Canadian doctors have been warned about a rare inflammatory illness that can lead to organ failure and has been detected in children in several countries amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent alert from the Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program (CPSP) states that the illness can resemble a severe gastrointestinal illness, a toxic shock-like syndrome or Kawasaki disease. It has been found in children who tested positive for COVID-19 through nasal swab tests, and children who tested negative via the same method.

“Some patients have deteriorated quickly and have required intensive care unit admission,” the alert reads.

“While rare, clinicians should be aware of the potential syndrome and maintain a high index of suspicion to identify cases.”

The illness has shown up in Canada, with a cluster of cases reported in Montreal, where doctors at Sainte-Justine Hospital have discovered at least 12 cases of it since mid-April. There have also been reports of the illness in New York, where more than 100 cases have been recorded and three children have died, and the United Kingdom.

Medical professionals have started referring to the illness as pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome.

Common symptoms include rashes, fever, bloodshot eyes and swelling in the hands and feet. Not every patient ends up in intensive care. Most children who have contracted the illness have been able to recover.

Although there is not yet any proof of a connection between COVID-19 and pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome aside from them emerging at the same time, the Ontario government has listed the syndrome as a rare symptom of COVID-19 that can affect children.

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