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Nine-year-old boy becomes first Australian to be struck by 'rare COVID-related illness'

A nine-year-old boy in Victoria has become the first Australian child to be struck down with a rare coronavirus-related illness – PIMS-TS.

He is now fighting for life after being admitted to Monash Hospital in Melbourne’s southeast. 

PIMS-TS causes blood vessels in the body to swell which can trigger a rash, shock, severe fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and heart complications.

The Victorian health department’s Better Safe Care has now sent out an alert advising paediatric and emergency staff to be on the lookout for PIMS-TS in children who present to hospital with COVID-19.

Emergency departments in the UK reported 78 cases of the disease in April and May.

With health authorities across the world on alert for the disease, cases were also found in France, Switzerland, Spain and the US.

PIMS-TS normally appears two to six weeks after contracting COVID-19 with the average age of patients being just 11 years old.

A nine-year-old boy in Victoria has become the first Australian child to be struck down with a rare coronavirus-related illness - PIMS-TS (stock image)

A nine-year-old boy in Victoria has become the first Australian child to be struck down with a rare coronavirus-related illness – PIMS-TS (stock image)

A study by respected medical journal the Lancet in the UK found boys and non-anglo minorities were over represented in case numbers.

There have been three children across the globe who have died from the illness, which is similar to Kawasaki disease – an inflammatory syndrome which causes fever and peeling skin.

Despite the low number, at least half the patients require ICU admission and about 15 per cent suffer coronary aneurysms.

Paediatric infectious diseases expert Professor Robert Booy from the University of Sydney told The Age he was not surprised that the country’s first case was in Victoria.

‘There have been literally thousands of cases of coronavirus in Victoria and probably hundreds of cases in older children so you do expect to eventually get a case,’ Professor Booy said.

The boy is now fighting for life after being admitted to Monash Hospital (pictured) in Melbourne's southeast

The boy is now fighting for life after being admitted to Monash Hospital (pictured) in Melbourne’s southeast








WHAT ARE THE CORONAVIRUS SYMPTOMS?

The virus, called COVID-19, is transmitted from person to person via droplets when an infected person breathes out, coughs or sneezes. 

It can also spread via contaminated surfaces such as door handles or railings. 

Coronavirus infections have a wide range of symptoms, including fever, coughing, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.  

Mild cases can cause cold-like symptoms including a sore throat, headache, fever, cough or trouble breathing.  

Severe cases can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory illness, kidney failure and death.  

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. 

‘There have been a lot of people looking very carefully for the possibility of this disease so it is very unlikely that there are many hidden cases because paediatricians have been searching very carefully for this very particular problem.’

According to Department of Health and Human Services Victoria there are currently 85 active coronavirus infections among children under 10 – 48 boys and 37 girls.

Professor Booy said there are some existing treatments used for Kawasaki disease which may offer some hope.

Elsewhere, intravenous antibodies have been used effectively to treat young patients with PIMS-TS.

But the long term effects of the rare disease remain a mystery to medical experts. 

‘What it tells us though is that if you’re genetically predisposed, you can get moderate to severe inflammatory response, which affects the whole body including fever and inflammation in many of the organs. It can affect the heart, the lungs, the kidneys and the circulatory system,’ Professor Booy said. 

Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said the case has now been referred to the paediatric adverse events disease surveillance system.

‘It is rare. But obviously when you’ve got thousands of cases of coronavirus anywhere in the world, then you’re going to get the potential for one or two of these cases to occur,’ he said.

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