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Kawasaki disease in kids may have coronavirus link

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Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Tuesday that rare but “unusual phenomena” affecting children could potentially be linked to the coronavirus, demonstrating that “we don’t understand this virus well.” 

“It’s really a remarkable thing, after so many months with the virus, and so much reporting in the medical literature, we’re still learning a lot about it,” Gottlieb said on “Squawk Box.” “I think the incremental information that we’re learning leads us to believe that this is a much more fearsome virus than we perceived perhaps at various points.” 

Gottlieb’s comments came after New York City health officials warned Monday of an inflammatory disease so far impacting 15 children that could possibly be associated with Covid-19. The condition is characterized by persistent fever and was likened to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome. Children who have had this complication have been admitted into intensive care. There have been no reported deaths among the patients, whose ages range between 2 and 15. 

According to the New York City Health Department, four of the children tested positive for Covid-19 through diagnostic testing. Six other children who initially were negative through diagnostic testing later tested positive from an antibody test. 

Officials in the United Kingdom last week reported cases of a rare inflammatory condition in children that could be connected to the coronavirus. They said that many, but not all, of the children with symptoms of the condition had Covid-19.

World Health Organization officials have said they are investigating whether there is a link between the inflammatory response and Covid-19. 

Gottlieb, former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, noted that so far that reports of the condition have not been widespread. But he pushed back against any suggestion that Covid-19 only impacts older adults or those who have underlying medical conditions. 

“There was a notion that this wasn’t really affecting kids. It does appear that there are kids being affected by it,” said Gottlieb, a CNBC contributor who sits on the boards of Pfizer and biotech company Illumina. “We certainly know that there are children who’ve been hospitalized and gotten very sick, but now it appears there’s some unusual phenomena that are affecting children, not in high numbers.”

In New York City, the 15 hospitalizations of patients with illnesses similar to this syndrome were recorded between April 17 and May 1. So far only severe cases may have been recognized, according to the health department. Less than half of the patients reported respiratory symptoms, the health department said. A rash, vomiting, abdominal pain or diarrhea was reported in more than half of patients. 

The health department stressed the importance of early detection and treatment of children who show these symptoms. 

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