Coronavirus: Kiwi parents shouldn't panic over mystery illness killing children overseas, says expert

Kiwi parents shouldn't worry about the increasing number of children dying from a mystery illness with a potential link to COVID-19, says an expert in paediatric infectious diseases. 

A number of children in the UK and Italy have died after being admitted to hospital with severe cases of what appears to be Kawasaki disease.

According to an urgent alert sent round the UK's GP's some but not all of these children tested positive for COVID-19.

Paediatric Infectious Disease specialist Associate Professor Tony Walls from the University of Otago says Kiwi parents should not worry too much.

"This seems like it's something that does need to be taken seriously, but at present it should not concern parents of children in New Zealand," he said in a statement on Thursday.

"Very few children have had COVID-19 infection in New Zealand and none have been sick enough to need hospital admission."

Dr Walls says the reports must be taken in context. The UK is suffering badly from COVID-19 with more than 150,000 confirmed cases and over 21,000 deaths. 

"It's a very different situation to what's happening in New Zealand,"

He says the reports of children dying are still relatively small even in harder hit areas like the UK.

"We are looking at 20 possible cases out of something like 11.5 million children in the UK. The reports say that half of these cases have tested negative for COVID-19."

Kawasaki disease has a seasonal pattern, usually flaring up in spring and summer. 

The UK Kawasaki Disease has issued a statement saying despite the deaths there have actually been fewer cases of the disease than it would normally see at this time of the year.