A coronavirus-linked threat to children in India

This month, four children were admitted separately to a hospital in the central Indian state of Maharashtra with symptoms of breathlessness and falling blood pressure.

Their mothers had contracted Covid-19 more than a month ago. The children had developed no symptoms of the disease. At the 1,000-bed Kasturba Hospital in Sevagram, the young patients, however, were found to have antibodies to Covid-19, indicating past infection.

Now they were battling a rare, inflammatory and potentially life threatening condition called multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). This condition usually develops four to six weeks after children and teenagers have recovered from Covid-19.

At the Kasturba Hospital, two of the sick children have recovered, while the other two are being treated in intensive care. "I would worry about this condition. We simply don't know how deep this problem is. It is worrisome we still don't have data on the burden of this disease in India," Dr SP Kalantri, medical superintendent of the hospital, said.

As the deadly second wave of the coronavirus abates, paediatricians across India are reporting more cases of this rare but serious condition. Since doctors are still reporting cases, it is not clear how many children have been affected so far. The US has reported more than 4,000 cases and 36 deaths from the disease so far.

At Delhi's Gangaram Hospital, Dr Dhiren Gupta, an intensive care paediatric, has seen more than 75 patients, aged between four and 15, since March, when the second wave began. His hospital has opened a 18-bed MIS-C ward. He reckons there have been more than 500 such cases in the capital and its suburbs.