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Doctors urged to be on alert for rare but deadly disease affecting children

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Work of art: Chloe Slevin, a first-year children’s and general nurse trainee, currently working on a Covid-19 ward at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin as a healthcare assistant, with her painting ‘Girl With A Surgical Mask’ which she is hoping to auction in aid of the Feed the Heroes charity. PHOTO: BRIAN LAWLESS/PA WIRE

Work of art: Chloe Slevin, a first-year children’s and general nurse trainee, currently working on a Covid-19 ward at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin as a healthcare assistant, with her painting ‘Girl With A Surgical Mask’ which she is hoping to auction in aid of the Feed the Heroes charity. PHOTO: BRIAN LAWLESS/PA WIRE

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Work of art: Chloe Slevin, a first-year children’s and general nurse trainee, currently working on a Covid-19 ward at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin as a healthcare assistant, with her painting ‘Girl With A Surgical Mask’ which she is hoping to auction in aid of the Feed the Heroes charity. PHOTO: BRIAN LAWLESS/PA WIRE

Irish doctors have been issued with a rapid alert about a rare but sometimes deadly autoimmune condition among children that could be linked to Covid-19.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan revealed yesterday that seven children in this country have been examined for potential signs of the illness since the virus spread.

Children can have symptoms similar to a rare condition called Kawasaki disease, which causes blood vessels throughout the body to swell, leading to extreme pain.

He said the EU's disease watchdog, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, has issued a rapid alert asking member states to make doctors aware of the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.

"There have been 230 suspected cases in Europe and two deaths," he said.

New York has been badly hit with 85 cases and a number of confirmed and suspected deaths.

Doctors here should have a high index of suspicion as part of their assessment of a child with potential symptoms.

He was speaking after the Cabinet gave the go-ahead for the first stage of easing lockdown restrictions from Monday.

There were 16 deaths from the virus announced yesterday, bringing the toll to 1,518, and another 129 people were diagnosed with the virus, making it 23,956 cases of infection here so far.

Asked if he believed people would be tempted to stretch the rules as the first easing of the lockdown was rolled out, Dr Holohan warned against inviting groups of friends and neighbours to a barbecue in the back garden.

The relaxation of rules from Monday allows for a group of up to four who are not from the same household to meet but it must be in the outdoors, last a short time and everyone must physically distance.

"We all know the Irish weather. It can rain or get chilly and then everyone goes indoors," he said.

Shopping

He said people over 70 could take part in this kind of group, although the advice is to avoid shopping.

All people still have to follow the 5km limit of travel from their home and this includes for activities such as sport.

People were also warned that the loosening of restrictions will increase the risk of the disease spreading.

"This is not risk-free," he said.

He repeated the advice that people can wear face coverings in shops or on public transport, but it is essential they continue to maintain physical distancing and wash their hands.

Advice issued by the Department of Health states that whether a mask is homemade or purchased, it needs to be washed daily.

People should also not wear disposable gloves instead of washing their hands.

"Disposable gloves are for work in medical settings. They are not as effective in daily life. If you sneeze or cough into the glove, it creates a new surface for the virus to live on.

Dr Holohan signalled that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has been discussing the impact of the virus on children's activities and it is likely there will be a recommendation on this area later in the summer.

Academic

However, schools will not return for this academic year.

Earlier yesterday it emerged that the Mater Hospital is under investigation for an alleged delay in reporting 244 cases of the coronavirus among health staff which dates back to mid-March, but it only came to the notice of the Department of Health on Wednesday.

However, the Mater Hospital said yesterday it has reported positive results for Covid-19 to the relevant authorities on a daily basis and followed up on all contacts.

The information is fed into a central computer in the HSE and the investigation is now also examining if a fault happened at that point of the process.

Irish Independent