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“This is something that is incredibly concerning,” Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said at a news briefing. Pediatricians and health officials have seen “laboratory signs of inflammation and a single or multiorgan indication of failure. Meaning that your kidneys are not working, they’re going into shock, your heart is giving out.”
Early in the outbreak, researchers and infectious disease experts said the virus appeared to be sparing children while hitting the elderly and those with underlying health conditions particularly hard.
Since then, researchers have discovered that children do get it and can die from it, even without underlying conditions that tend to worsen symptoms. Most kids report mild respiratory symptoms, namely fever, dry cough and fatigue. However, some children can become seriously ill, developing an inflammatory syndrome similar to Kawasaki disease.
Most of the kids who have developed the inflammatory syndrome are between 5 and 9 years old, Barbot said.
The inflammatory disease is similar to Kawasaki disease, an illness that is most common in young children and causes high fever and swelling in blood vessels. Children may also develop a rash and experience abdominal pain and vomiting.
However, Barbot said while this syndrome is Kawasaki-like, “It’s really beyond that. We’re calling it pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome.”
She said the term is a “descriptive diagnosis” and health officials are still “learning about the way in which Covid-19 is affecting children.”
Prevention and early diagnosis are the most important factors in treating it, according to Barbot.
She urged parents to get their children tested for Covid-19 antibodies if they otherwise test negative for the virus but have symptoms of Kawasaki disease, which includes a persistent and high fever, rash, sore throat and swollen hands or feet. Doctors are seeing the new inflammatory syndrome crop up after a child recovers from the coronavirus, she said.
“If you find it early and you treat it early, the long-term consequences for children are pretty negligible,” she said.
Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is investigating how Covid-19 impacts children after a 5-year-old boy in New York City died from coronavirus-related complications.
The state is investigating at least 85 reported cases in the state of children falling severely ill with symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease, Cuomo said Sunday. At least three children have died from it and two other kids’ deaths were under investigation as of Sunday, he said.
“This is every parent’s nightmare, right? That your child may actually be affected by this virus. But it’s something that we have to consider seriously now,” Cuomo previously said.
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio also said last week that health officials have identified at least 15 pediatric cases of the inflammatory disease. Four of the patients tested positive for Covid-19 while 11 tested negative, and six had antibodies for the virus.
New York State and the city plan to continue their research on the illness. “As the science emerges, if our guidance needs to adapt, we will certainly adapt it but for right now, continue with face coverings, remaining indoors as much as possible and not delaying seeking care,” Barbot said.