A leading GP in Northern Ireland has urged parents of sick children not to delay seeking medical assistance after doctors in England were warned to look out for an infection that could be related to the coronavirus.
An urgent alert was issued yesterday by NHS England, warning of an apparent rise in a "number of children of all ages" being admitted to intensive care suffering from "multi-system inflammation" with flu-like symptoms over the past three weeks.
The cases have been reported in London and other parts of the UK.
According to the alert, which has also been shared with GPs, 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.
They may also have abdominal pain and symptoms of inflammation around the heart.
NHS England said the effects had been seen in children both with and without coronavirus but there was evidence that some patients had had coronavirus previously. The health body said it knew of fewer than 20 such cases where an association has been noted by clinicians. Investigations will continue, but no link has yet been established, a spokesman told the BBC.
The alert talks about atypical Kawasaki disease, a condition that mainly affects children under the age of five. Symptoms include a high temperature that lasts for five days or more, often with a rash and/or swollen glands in the neck.
NHS England stressed there was no confirmed connection between Kawasaki-related diseases and Covid-19.
The Royal College of General Practitioners Northern Ireland (RCGPNI) told the Belfast Telegraph that "no official guidance" has yet been issued to GPs here on the syndrome.
Its chairman, Dr Laurence Dorman, however, urged parents to not delay in seeking medical assistance if their child is feeling unwell.
"RCGPNI would like to reassure patients and parents of children that we are still open and to come and see us if you are worried about your child," he said. "Our message is: do what you normally do when you are concerned about your own health or that of your child - ring your GP, we are here to help you."
Professor Simon Kenny, the NHS's national clinical director for children and young people, stressed Kawasaki-like diseases are rare. However, he said it is also important clinicians are "made aware of any potential emerging links" in relation to these new cases.
Meanwhile, Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said parents should be reassured that children are unlikely to be seriously ill with Covid-19.
"We already know that a very small number of children can become severely ill with Covid-19 but this is very rare - evidence... shows us that children appear to be the part of the population least affected by this infection," he said.
"New diseases may present in ways that surprise us, and clinicians need to be made aware of any emerging evidence of particular symptoms or of underlying conditions which could make a patient more vulnerable to the virus."