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Health D-G Urges Protection Of Children From Covid-19 Amid Increase In Rare Kawasaki Syndrome Overseas

Health D-G Urges Protection Of Children From Covid-19 Amid Increase In Rare Kawasaki Syndrome Overseas

Tasneem Nazari

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Malaysians need to be more vigilant when it comes to protecting our children and infants from contracting Covid-19. It is a commonly held misconception that children are less vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19. However, the Health Ministry has stressed that kids are considered a high-risk group.

The concern follows a recent rise in reports of children being diagnosed with a more severe form of Kawasaki disease, with some health experts suspecting that the severity of the disease might have links to Covid-19.

Speaking to BBC, Dr Liz Whittaker, a clinical lecturer in paediatric infectious diseases and immunology, at Imperial College London, pointed out that the rise in Kawasaki disease among kids is occurring in the middle of a pandemic. Saying that this suggests the two are linked.

You’ve got the Covid-19 peak, and then three or four weeks later we’re seeing a peak in this new phenomenon which makes us think that it’s a post-infectious phenomenon.

Dr Liz Whittaker via BBC

What is Kawasaki disease?

Kawasaki disease symptoms. (Credit: Kawasaki Kids Foundation)

Kawasaki disease was first described in Japan by Tomisaku Kawasaki in 1967, and the first cases of it being detected outside of Japan were reported in Hawaii in 1976.

Kawasaki disease is an illness that causes swelling and redness in blood vessels throughout the body. Currently, doctors still don’t know what causes Kawasaki disease, though they believe it isn’t contagious. It might be linked to genes, viruses, bacteria, or something else.

Thankfully, the condition is highly treatable. When caught early, kids are expected to recover within a few days of starting treatment. However, if the condition isn’t found until later, patients can have severe complications that affect the heart, including damage to a child’s coronary arteries.

Often affecting kids younger than 5 years of age, symptoms of the disease appear in phases. The first phase is usually a fever that lasts for at least 5 days. Other symptoms include red eyes, pink rash on the back, belly, arms, legs and genital area, dry lips, sore throat, a “strawberry” tongue, swollen palms and soles of the feet with a purple-red colour, and swollen lymph glands in the neck.

Speaking of the issue, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that to date, 317 children under the age of 12 years have tested positive for Covid-19 in Malaysia. Out of the 317, 35% were under the age of four and 7% were infants.

Image for illustrative purposes. (Credit: Malay Mail)

Despite the fact that there have not been any reports of severe Covid-19 cases among our kids, Dr Noor Hisham warned that Kawasaki-like symptoms are a danger that needs to be considered.

More importantly, we do know that Covid-19 affects the lungs, like pneumonia, for example. And in children, they can actually have Kawasaki-like syndrome which actually means inflammation of the vessels. This is why we call it vasculitis.

Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah via Malay Mail

He stressed that the important issue that must be addressed is the need to prevent children from getting infected with Covid-19, and urged parents and guardians to adhere to the ministry’s standard operating procedures (SOP) to decrease the chances of infection.

He reminded parents of the importance of washing hands or bathing after returning home before interacting with children and encouraged the avoidance of crowded or confined spaces and implementing the required social distancing practices.

The MOH calls on parents, guardians and older family members be responsible and protect them at all times from this invisible virus. The general public is also encouraged to cooperate in protecting children and infants, by maintaining a safe social distance of at least one metre.

Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah via Malay Mail

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