Children being treated for suspected coronavirus-linked Kawasaki disease are also beginning to exhibit high blood-sugar levels “consistent with diabetes,” a Brooklyn pediatric doctor said.
Two of the four patients treated at SUNY Downstate hospital for Kawasaki or pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome also had diabetes, said Dr. Stephen Wadowksi, a pulmonologist who is chairman of the pediatric department.
“It’s new. It’s unexpected,” Wadowski told The Post. “Their blood sugar is very high.”
He said while the few cases are anecdotal, the sudden flare-up of diabetes in adolescents with suspected COVID-tied inflammatory syndrome must be taken seriously.
“Diabetes is something we’re going to be looking at. It’s something worth studying. Whether it’s significant or not depends on how much more it occurs,” Wadowski said.
He said during the last SARS outbreak there was discussion on whether that virus accelerated or triggered diabetes.
Youngsters haven’t exhibited illnesses that COVID has inflicted on adults.
But Wadowski said an overreaction by the children’s immune systems in fighting the coronavirus may be causing Kawasaki — inflammation of the blood vessels — as well as other maladies.
Kawasaki disease is named after the Japanese pediatrician Tomisaku Kawasaki, who in 1967 reported 50 cases of infants with persistent fever, accompanied by rash, lymphadenopathy [disease of lymph nodes], inflammation of the blood vessels, redness and cracking of the lips, “strawberry tongue,” and peeling of the skin.
A skin rash can be a symptom of Kawasaki disease.Shutterstock / SingjaiStocker
Of the four teenagers ages 13 and 14 treated at SUNY Downstate, two tested positive for the coronavirus, one tested positive for COVID antibodies and one patient is awaiting results, the doctor said.
As for the emergence of diabetes, he said the theory is the virus could bind to a protein that latches on to cells in the pancreas, producing insulin.
“That’s what concerning about this. A lot of the young patients had mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Then a few weeks later they get this inflammatory syndrome and other problems,” Wadkowski said.
“You think you dodged a bullet and a few weeks later this inflammatory syndrome crops up,” he said.
The mysterious Kawasaki-like illness has now sickened nearly 100 New York children, including 38 in New York City.
The disease has already killed a 5-year-old boy in the Big Apple and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said over the weekend that there are two more possible deaths from the illness.