Coronavirus: 13-year-old boy dies, says London hospital trust

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A 13-year-old boy who tested positive for coronavirus has died, King’s College Hospital Trust in London said.

Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, from Brixton in south London, died in hospital early on Monday. He is thought to be the youngest person to have died with the virus in the UK.

A spokesman for the trust said the boy’s death had been referred to the coroner, but gave no further details.

As of 17:00 BST on Monday, the number of UK deaths was 1,789.

The latest figures saw a daily increase of 381 – the biggest rise so far.

Ismail’s family said they were “beyond devastated” by his death, according to a statement released by a family friend.

They said he had no apparent underlying health conditions and tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday, a day after he was admitted to King’s College Hospital.

BBC health correspondent Nick Triggle said it was rare for teenagers to become seriously ill after being infected with coronavirus.

“Just 0.3% of those who show symptoms require hospital care and 0.006% die – in other words two out of every 30,000 infections among this age group will not survive,” he said.

“But it does happen, as this distressing case shows.”

Ismail’s family said he started showing symptoms and had difficulties breathing and was admitted to King’s College Hospital in south London.

“He was put on a ventilator and then put into an induced coma but sadly died yesterday morning,” they said.

“To our knowledge he had no underlying health conditions. We are beyond devastated.”

Mark Stephenson, college director at Madinah College, in south-west London, where Ismail’s sister works as a teacher, has set up a fundraiser to raise money for the funeral costs.

A statement on the page said Ismail died “without any family members close by due to the highly infectious nature of Covid 19”.

Analysis: What is the risk to young people?

By Richard Warry, assistant editor, health, BBC News

Research suggests that children and teenagers are much less likely to die from Covid-19 than adults.

Symptoms tend to be more mild in children, in contrast to flu when children are at higher risk of complications.

Scientists have yet to determine why this might be. It is possible that children’s bodies are more able to cope with the virus.

Children’s immune systems are immature and often tend to overreact to infections. But the coronavirus appears not to stimulate their immune systems in this way.

One theory is that children might be better off because they have not been exposed to other milder types of coronavirus.

Adults have, and have developed antibodies as a result, but because those antibodies are not exactly matched to Covid-19 they might do the body more harm than good.

All this does not mean that young people – particularly those with underlying health conditions – are completely safe from the effects of Covid-19, as this case tragically shows.

Dr Nathalie MacDermott, clinical lecturer at King’s College London, said Ismail’s death “highlights the importance of us all taking the precautions we can to reduce the spread of infection in the UK and worldwide”.

She added: “It is important that a coroner assesses whether a post-mortem is necessary to further understand the exact cause of death.

“While chronic underlying medical conditions are known to result in worse outcomes in Covid-19 infection, we have heard of cases of younger individuals with no known medical problems succumbing to the disease.

“It is essential that we undertake research to determine why a proportion of deaths occur outside of the groups expected to succumb to infection, as it may indicate an underlying genetic susceptibility of how the immune system interacts with the virus.”

Earlier, NHS England said that a 19-year-old had died after testing positive for the virus. At that stage, the teenager was believed to be England’s youngest death linked to coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove described the latest rise in UK deaths as “deeply shocking” during the government’s daily briefing.

“Now is absolutely not the time for people to imagine there can be any relaxation or slackening” of lockdown measures, he said.

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