NEW YORK (WABC) -- As New York investigates at least 85 cases of a mysterious syndrome in children possibly linked to COVID-19, the state's health chief is urging parents to pay close attention to the symptoms of the potentially deadly condition.
New York Health Commissioner and pediatric cardiologist Dr. Howard Zucker said "the most important thing parents should do is err on the side of caution" when it comes to the illness being called "pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome."
"I would tell parents that if your child has any nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pallor - the color of their face changing, the color of their lips and fingers - if they have any chest pains... they should call their doctor and they need to be evaluated," Zucker said.
Most of the cases of pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome that are under investigation involve toddlers and elementary-age children. Three children have died of the condition in New York state, and two additional deaths are under investigation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.
The children had tested positive for COVID-19 or the antibodies but did not show the common symptoms of the virus when they were hospitalized.
COVID-19 typically causes respiratory illness in positive patients while this syndrome presents as an inflammation of blood vessels, and sometimes inflammation of the heart.
The children being studied exhibited symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease - a rare inflammatory condition in children - and toxic shock syndrome.
Symptoms usually include prolonged fever, severe abdominal pain and trouble breathing.
Three children, a 5-year-old boy in New York City, a 7-year old in Westchester County and a teenager in Suffolk County have died.
It appears the three children did not have underlying conditions, which are often associated with the patients most gravely affected by COVID-19.
Whether the coronavirus causes the mysterious syndrome remains to be proven.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday that 38 of the cases involve children in New York City.
Children elsewhere in the U.S. have also been hospitalized with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome., which has also been seen in Europe.
Dr. Zucker said he has a team of more than 30 people who are working with the CDC to evaluate the cases and are tasked with developing criteria for identifying and responding to the syndrome that will be used by the rest of the country.