British Columbia

B.C. looking into possible cases of rare syndrome in children that may be coronavirus-related

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at least a half-dozen cases of possible “Kawasaki-like syndrome” in children are being investigated. The inflammatory post-viral syndrome has been reported in some young children during the pandemic.

Dr. Bonnie Henry stresses Kawasaki-like syndrome is rare and kids at lesser risk for serious COVID-19 impacts

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said over a half-dozen possible cases of the Kawasaki-like syndrome are being looked into in B.C. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at least a half-dozen cases of possibly coronavirus-related "Kawasaki-like syndrome" in children are being looked into in B.C.

The Kawasaki-like syndrome is an inflammatory post-viral syndrome that has been reported in some young children during the coronavirus pandemic.

Henry said Monday hundreds of cases of the Kawasaki-like disease have been detected around the world, particularly in places like the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States.

Henry stressed the disease is rarely seen but it has led to the deaths of at least three children in the U.S.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said pediatric experts at B.C. Children's Hospital are looking into the cases. (UBC)

"It's certainly plausible that COVID-19 could be leading to this in some children," Henry said. 

"We don't have any known, confirmed cases related to COVID-19 yet in the province but that investigation is still ongoing."

Kawasaki is described on HealthLinkBC as a rare childhood illness affecting the blood vessels. It can harm the coronary arteries which carry blood to the heart.

"It is something that we're watching very, very carefully," Henry said.

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Pediatricians on the lookout

Pediatricians and other health-care providers across Canada are on the lookout for children with the rare, inflammatory illness as part of expanded surveillance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said earlier in May that clinicians have been alerted to reports of the condition, called multisystem inflammatory vasculitis or variants of Kawasaki syndrome.

Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said alerts about the syndrome have gone out to medical professionals across the country. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Henry said the disease has been made a reportable condition in B.C., meaning doctors are required to notify officials if they find it in a patient. 

She said officials are looking as far back as January to find possible cases.

It's likely B.C. would find some, she said, because it arises with other viral and bacterial infections. It tends to come with flu season.

She said pediatric experts at B.C. Children's Hospital are looking into the situation.

CBC News asked for comment from the hospital but did not immediately hear back.

Symptoms include fever, rash

HealthLinkBC describes the symptoms of Kawasaki as:

  • Fever lasting at least five days.
  • Red eyes.
  • Body rash.
  • Swollen, red, cracked lips and tongue.
  • Swollen, red feet and hands.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
  • Irritability.

Other symptoms that may develop include joint pain, diarrhea, low energy and peeling skin on hands and feet.

"The symptoms can be severe for several days and can look scary to parents," HealthLinkBC states. "But then most children return to normal activities."

HealthLinkBC said parents who suspect their children have Kawasaki should get medical help.

Dr. Tam described some of the symptoms of multisystem inflammatory vasculitis as a persistent fever; abdominal pain; gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea; and a rash and inflammation of arteries of the heart.

Kids at lower risk

Henry also reiterated that young children seem to be at the least risk of contracting COVID-19, and when they do, they seem to suffer less severely.

She said only about one per cent of the cases detected have been children under 10.

There have been fewer than 80 people under 19 diagnosed with COVID-19. Only three of them have been hospitalized, none went into intensive care and none have died.

"So that's all good news," she said.

Kids are not only less likely to be infected, she said, but they are also less likely to transmit it. Adults are more likely to transmit the virus to kids than the other way around.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.

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