British and Italian scientists are investigating a possible link between Kawasaki disease and Covid-19 after a significant number of infants begin displaying high fevers and swollen arteries.

Doctors in Northern Italy have reported that they are experiencing large numbers of children under nine years old with apparent symptoms of Kawasaki disease, which is commonly found in Asia.

In the UK, at least 12 children have been taken into intensive care suffering from symptoms associated with the disease, although experts say that it is “too early to say” whether this is a legitimate link with coronavirus.

What is Kawasaki disease?

Kawasaki disease is an inflammatory disease that causes the blood vessels around the heart to swell up and restrict blood flow to the rest of the body.

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes Kawasaki disease but theorise that it is due to a ‘combination of factors.’ Children under five years old are most affected and it is more common among boys than girls (similar to Covid-19).

What is the government’s response?

NHS England’s medical director, Professor Stephen Powis said in Monday’s Downing Street press briefing that, “We have become aware in the last few days of reports of severe illness in children which might be a Kawasaki-like disease.

Both Chris (Whitty) and I are aware of that, and we have asked our experts, I have asked the national clinical director for children and young people to look into this as a matter of urgency.”

Whilst Health Secretary Matt Hancock added that he was “very worried” by the reports, he urged people to remember that it was “really too early to say whether there is a link.”

What to look out for?

Symptoms of Kawasaki disease include nausea, a high fever, rash on the chest, redness on the inside of the eyelid, lips and mouth, swollen lymph nodes (the glands in the neck) and swelling of the hands and soles of the feet which can turn red and puffy.

As the blood vessels around the heart become swollen, some children can also develop shortness of breath and chest pain.