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Japan's 1st case of post-coronavirus Kawasaki disease confirmed

This supplied electron micrograph shows the new pneumonia-causing coronavirus. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Kyodo)

TOKYO -- A 1-year-old boy was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, where blood vessels become inflamed throughout the body, after being hospitalized for the novel coronavirus in Japan's capital in late March.

    Though the link between the new coronavirus and Kawasaki disease is not clear, it is the first time that an individual has been diagnosed with Kawasaki disease after contracting the virus in Japan. Similar cases have been reported overseas, and experts are calling for people to be on the alert.

    The Tokyo Metropolitan Children's Medical Center, based in the capital's suburban city of Fuchu, will announce the case in the Japan Pediatric Society's English-language journal, the Pediatrics International, in the near future.

    Kawasaki disease is an illness of unknown cause that mainly affects infants and results in a high fever; red eyes, lips and tongue; a rash on the body; redness of the arms and legs and swollen neck glands, among other symptoms. Discovering the illness at an early stage and providing treatment to reduce inflammation of the blood vessels is said to be crucial.

    According to the center, the boy's mother contracted the coronavirus in mid-March and the boy developed a high fever, cough and runny nose a week later. As the boy had been in close contact with his mother, he took a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and the result was positive. He later tested negative and was released from the center, but three weeks later he was treated there again after he developed a fever. The boy was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease symptoms including swollen neck glands, redness of the palm and a rash on his body. The center provided blood products to reduce inflammation among other treatment, and the boy's temperature returned to normal the following day and he soon recovered.

    In North America and Europe, there have been an increasing number of patients showing symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease, and because in many cases the patients had formerly been infected with the novel coronavirus, some have pointed to a link between the two diseases.

    At the center, 14 children aged between 0 and 11 were diagnosed with Kawasaki disease from March to May. Of these, only the 1-year-old boy tested positive during a coronavirus antibody test.

    The boy's attending physician Kazuhiro Uda, in the department of infectious diseases, says just one case does not mean the two diseases have a correlation. However, he cautioned, "I would like medical care workers and parents to watch out for children developing symptoms of Kawasaki disease one to two months after being infected with the new coronavirus. If they develop any symptoms that catch your attention, it's important to consult a doctor, visit the hospital and provide treatment at an early stage."

    (Japanese original by Eri Misono, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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