ALBANY — New York may have 64 potential cases of children coming down with a coronavirus-linked inflammatory disease, raising concerns among health professionals about a new affliction associated with the pandemic.
The state Department of Health late Wednesday issued an advisory to healthcare providers about the serious inflammatory disease affecting children throughout the state.
As of May 5, the state said 64 potential cases of the condition, called “Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome Associated with COVID-19”, have been reported in children in New York hospitals, including New York City.
New York City initially reported 15 cases, saying the children aged 2 to 15 and had a fever with more than half of them reported a rash, abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea.
“Thankfully most children with COVID-19 only experience mild symptoms, but in some, a dangerous inflammatory syndrome can develop,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement.
“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.”
No deaths have been reported in New York due to the illness, but New York City said many of the patients required blood pressure support and five of them required mechanical ventilation.
One case may have been found in Rochester, according to the University of Rochester Medicine's Golisano Children's Hospital.
What is the new COVID-19 syndrome afflicting children?
The advisory, according to the health department, is to alert healthcare providers of the condition, but also make them aware of testing and reporting that should take place.
The symptoms have been considered similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome, including a persistent fever. But doctors have said it is unclear whether the diseases are linked.
The new condition was first reported by doctors in Britain, Italy and Spain in late April.
Britain’s Paediatric Intensive Care Society issued an alert noting there had been an increase in the number of children with “a multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care” across the country.
"Kawasaki disease is one of the great mysteries in pediatrics,” Dr. Frank Esper, a physician at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Pediatric Infectious Diseases, told USA TODAY. “It’s something we’ve been dealing with for decades.”
Experts say it's too early to tell if the disease can be associated with COVID-19.
“We’ve never seen the coronavirus before, but we’ve been dealing with Kawasaki disease for decades,” Esper said.
What are the symptoms to look for?
Experts aren't even sure if the mystery disease popping up in parts of Europe and the U.S. can be identified as Kawasaki disease.
"I will caution that there are many things that look similar to Kawasaki disease," Esper said. "It could be that what they’re calling Kawasaki is not Kawasaki but an inflammatory disease caused by the coronavirus."
Symptoms include a fever of at least 101 degrees that lasts for five days or more, a rash and swollen glands in the neck, according to Britain's National Health Service.
Esper says it predominately affects children ages 2 to 6, tends to run during "mini-epidemics" and is more likely to happen in the winter than the summer.
In New York, healthcare providers, including hospitals, are required to report to the state Department of Health all cases of pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome potentially associated with COVID-19 in those under 21 years of age.
The state health department said though most children who get COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms, in the United Kingdom, a possible link has also been reported between pediatric COVID-19 and serious inflammatory disease.
The symptoms could overlap with Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome and may occur days to weeks after acute COVID-19 illness, state officials said.
It can include persistent fever, abdominal symptoms, rash, and even cardiovascular symptoms requiring intensive care.
"Early recognition by pediatricians and referral to a specialist including to critical care is essential," the state health department said.
"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."