France: First case of child dying from Kawasaki-like disease

Boy, nine, dies of inflammatory disease possibly linked to coronavirus as cases spike in London, New York and Italy.

    Pupils wearing protective face masks are seen in a classroom at a primary school during its reopening in Paris [Benoit Tessier/Reuters]
    Pupils wearing protective face masks are seen in a classroom at a primary school during its reopening in Paris [Benoit Tessier/Reuters]

    A nine-year-old boy has died in France from a Kawasaki-like disease believed to be linked to coronavirus, his doctor said on Friday, the first such confirmed death in the country as similar child fatalities are being investigated in New York and London.

    The child died after a "neurological injury related to a cardiac arrest", said Fabrice Michel, head of the paediatric intensive care unit at La Timone hospital in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille.

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    The boy, who tested positive for coronavirus, received treatment at the hospital for seven days and died on Saturday, the doctor told AFP news agency.

    Symptoms include a high fever, rashes, abdominal pain, conjunctivitis and a red or swollen tongue.

    In the last three weeks, several countries have reported cases of children affected by the inflammatory disease.

    The Evelina London Children's Hospital said on Wednesday that a 14-year-old boy with no underlying health conditions had died from the disease, and had tested positive for the new coronavirus.

    In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday that three children in the state had died and more than 100 cases were being investigated.

    There have been 125 reported cases in France between March 1 and May 12, according to the country's public health agency. The patients' ages ranged from one to 14.

    Inflammation of blood vessels and cardiac damage are "much more pronounced" in cases suspected of being linked to COVID-19 compared with classic, rare Kawasaki disease, France's public health agency said on Thursday.

    Michel, the paediatric doctor in Marseille, stressed that the new disease is rare. Children should see a doctor if they have a fever for more than two days and associated symptoms, he said.

    Doctors in northern Italy have also reported spikes in cases, according to a study in The Lancet.

    In Bergamo, Italy between February 18 and April 20, the Hospital Papa Giovanni XXIII admitted 10 children with the syndrome, including eight who tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.

    Over the last five years, doctors there had seen a total of only 19 children with Kawasaki disease, according to The Lancet.

    Compared to children with Kawasaki disease in the past, those they saw during the pandemic were older and more severely ill, the report said, with 60 percent suffering heart complications and half having signs of toxic shock syndrome.

    Scientists are still trying to confirm whether the syndrome is linked with the new coronavirus because not all children with it have tested positive for the virus.

    Some researchers have suggested the coronavirus family might trigger Kawasaki disease.

    "The symptoms in children are different from adults with COVID-19 in whom the illness is more of a respiratory condition," said Dr George Ofori-Amanfo, division chief of Pediatric Critical Care at Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital, New York.

    Children with the rare inflammatory syndrome often have severe abdominal pain and vomiting that progresses to shock, he said.

    He said none of the children he has seen recently with this syndrome had any underlying disease, but they all had antibodies for the coronavirus.

    SOURCE: News agencies