Coronavirus News: NY issues advisory for mysterious, potentially COVID-19 related illness in children

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The New York State Department of Health issued an advisory to healthcare providers Wednesday about a serious inflammatory disease affecting children throughout the state that is believed to be linked to the novel coronavirus.

As of May 5, officials say there are 64 potential cases of the condition, called Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome Associated with COVID-19, that have been reported in children in New York hospitals, including in New York City.

"Thankfully most children with COVID-19 only experience mild symptoms, but in some, a dangerous inflammatory syndrome can develop," New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said. "While we continue to reduce cases through social distancing, discoveries like this remind us we are still in the middle of our response to this deadly pandemic."

The purpose of the health advisory is to inform healthcare providers of the condition, as well as to provide guidance for testing and reporting. Healthcare providers, including hospitals, are required to report to the Department of Health all cases of pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome potentially associated with COVID-19 in those under 21 years of age.

"I don't think it's caught anyone off guard," Governor Andrew Cuomo said. "It's developing right now. We are looking at it in New York. The information is all preliminary. We are talking to some hospitals that have some individual cases that they are questioning. But it looks like, again preliminary, young children who either test COVID positive or test for the COVID antibodies which indicate they had the virus, which have an inflammatory response. It's not really respiratory, it's more in the blood vessels themselves, where they have an inflammatory response to the virus itself or to the antibodies."

The possible link has also been reported in the United Kingdom between pediatric COVID-19 and serious inflammatory disease. The inflammatory syndrome has features which overlap with Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome and may occur days to weeks after acute COVID-19 illness.

It can include persistent fever, abdominal symptoms, rash, and even cardiovascular symptoms requiring intensive care.

"The truth is anyone who tells you we know definitively what is going on, I don't think anyone does," Cuomo said. "I talked to all the experts around the country. I don't think anyone knows exactly what they are talking about. The more we learn, the more we learn that we were wrong. Now they talking about the virus may have been here last year, November and December. CDC just announced that the cases on the East Coast came from Europe and not China. So much of what we heard turns out to be wrong, frankly. So I understand why parents would be anxious."

Health officials say early recognition by pediatricians and referral to a specialist including to critical care is essential, and molecular and serological testing for COVID-19 in children exhibiting the above symptoms is recommended.

The majority of patients have tested positive for COVID-19, some on molecular testing for SARS-COV-2, others on serological testing.

On Long Island, Cohen's Children Hospital confirmed that 25 children were hospitalized with Kawasaki-like symptoms. Eleven of them are being treated in ICU.

In New Jersey, the heath department said it has been alerted to the pediatric inflammatory syndrome and is aware of potential cases in the state. They said they are in the process of getting additional guidance from the CDC, including the criteria for defining a case.

The health department says none of the patients with this syndrome in New York have died.

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