A mother has told how her two-year-old son was rushed to hospital with a dangerous inflammatory syndrome thought to be linked to COVID-19.
Gemma Brown, 38, told MailOnline that her son, Bertie, was admitted to Worcestershire Royal hospital last month on his second birthday, when his temperature soared over 40C (104F) and his blotchy rash began to turn black.
Doctors were initially baffled but a senior consultant eventually diagnosed the boy with the rare Kawasaki disease, a form of toxic shock syndrome which causes the body’s immune system to attack its own organs.
But Bertie was not given a COVID-19 test, leaving both medics and his family in the dark about a possible link between Kawasaki disease and coronavirus.
Bertie Brown was admitted to Worcestershire Royal hospital last month on his second birthday after developing a fever and rash across his body
His temperature soared over 40C (104F) and the blotchy rash spread across his body and began to turn black
Doctors were initially baffled but a senior consultant eventually diagnosed the boy with the rare Kawasaki disease
The condition is a form of toxic shock syndrome which causes the body’s immune system to attack its own organs
‘I don’t know how the Government is going to prove there’s a link if they’re not testing patients,’ the mother-of-two from Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, said.
‘I asked for him to be tested, as I had a gut feeling that there was a connection between covid and Kawasaki.
‘Both attack your immune system and the whole family had been poorly with covid symptoms before Bertie fell ill.
‘I was adamant that there was a link and was begging for a test, but they just told me that there was no need to test the under-fives.’
The boy was given an immunoglobin transfusion and was in hospital for five days. ‘It was horrific seeing him like that,’ Mrs Brown said.
‘He didn’t have any respiratory problems but he was put in a ward on his own and he was easily the most poorly child in the hospital.
‘His rash had started out being itchy, but it quickly put him in agony. His temperature was dangerously high and they were monitoring him round the clock.’
Bertie, who was born very prematurely weighing only 1.5lb, has always had a weak immune system, making him susceptible to viruses.
Two-year-old Bertie Brown, his mother Gemma, 38, and his older brother George, 14
Bertie’s mother believes the painful rash (shown on his legs) was caused by a complication of coronavirus
But Bertie was not given a COVID-19 test, leaving both medics and his family in the dark about a possible link
WHAT IS KAWASAKI DISEASE?
Kawasaki disease is a condition that causes inflammation in the walls of the blood vessels and affects mostly children under five years old.
The inflammation can weaken the coronary arteries, which supply the heart with blood. This can lead to aneurysms and heart attacks.
The condition affects eight children out of every 100,000 and statistics show it is fatal in three per cent of cases that go untreated.
WHAT SYMPTOMS DOES IT CAUSE?
The symptoms of Kawasaki disease usually develop in three phases over a six-week period, according to advice on the NHS’ website.
The first signs are a fever and a rash in the first few weeks, followed by the eyes of children becoming red and swollen.
It can also cause the lips to dry up and crack, a sore throat, swollen lymph glands and the tongue to become red, the NHS warns.
The second phase of Kawasaki disease often causes symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, joint pain and jaundice.
In the third phase, symptoms tend to disappear but children ‘may still have a lack of energy and become easily tired during this time’.
‘Thank God he is OK now and has come home, though he’s still on Aspirin to prevent his blood clotting,’ his mother said.
‘He’s much better in himself. But the fact is that we just don’t know what’s been going on as he wasn’t tested for coronavirus.’
This morning, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary said that children with no underlying health conditions may have died from an inflammatory syndrome linked to the virus.
On Monday, doctors were issued an alert about a sharp rise of infants being admitted to intensive care with a Kawasaki-like disease in Britain and Italy.
The majority of Kawasaki patients are thought to be under the age of five, and some are so badly affected that they have to be put on life support.
The disease is a condition that causes inflammation in the walls of the blood vessels and affects mostly children under five years old.
There are roughly eight cases for every 100,000 children in the UK and statistics show it is fatal in three per cent of cases that go untreated.
The new COVID-19-linked cases are occurring when someone with Kawasaki disease contracts the virus and that produces complications, an NHS source told the Guardian.
Children are not thought to be badly affected by COVID-19 – very few youngsters have died around the world since the pandemic began in December.
Their apparent resilience to the disease has baffled doctors for weeks because they are often ‘super-spreaders’ of viral illnesses such as flu.
The children being seen with this syndrome often suffer from stomach pain, cardiac inflammation and ‘gastrointestinal symptoms’ – which could include vomiting and diarrhoea.
Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said yesterday is ‘entirely plausible’ this spike is linked to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Speaking at No 10’s press briefing yesterday, he added: ‘Because we know that in adults who of course have much more disease than children do, big problems are caused by an inflammatory process and this looks rather like an inflammatory process, a rather different one.
Bertie, who was born very prematurely weighing only 1.5lb, has always had a weak immune system, making him susceptible to viruses
‘Therefore, given that we have got a new presentation of this at a time with a new disease, the possibility – it is not a definite, we need to look for other causes as well – but the possibility that there is a link is certainly plausible.’
NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis sent an alert to his experts on Monday, instructing them to drill down into the alarming numbers of children with the syndrome.
According to the alert, which was originally shared with GPs in north London, children affected display signs similar to toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a severe illness associated with infections, and have blood markers in line with severe Covid-19 in children.
Doctors have compared the mysterious complication to toxic shock syndrome and Kawasaki disease which, combined, cause harmful internal swelling, fever and breathing problems – all hallmark signs of COVID-19.
But some of the children needing intensive care have tested negative for the coronavirus, further complicating the diagnosis and raising questions that another pathogen could be behind the condition.
Officials have yet to offer any clarity on what the symptoms are, despite pleas from paediatricians to paint a clearer picture so they can look out for them.
It is not clear how many children have had the inflammatory syndrome, nor whether any have died with it. It is also unclear how old the children have been.
But it is thought to have only affected a ‘handful’ of children so far, according to one prominent paediatrician who admitted the complication could be caused by another pathogen.