Three New York children have died from pediatric multi-symptom inflammatory syndrome tied to COVID-19 since the pandemic began, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.
A 7-year-old boy from Westchester County died late last week, the county confirmed on Friday. A 5-year-old boy died earlier in the week from the same syndrome at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital in New York City. Cuomo did not give any details about the third New York child on Saturday.
“We still have a lot to learn about this virus and every day is another eye-opening situation,” he said, adding that the emergence of the illness was “truly disturbing.”
The childhood ailment has affected at least 73 children in New York state and authorities are now looking for other potential cases across the country. Cases have also been reported in Washington, D.C., California, Delaware, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Washington state and New Jersey, where a 4-year-old died with symptoms last month.
It had been previously been thought that children were less likely to suffer any serious complications from the coronavirus.
“We’re not so sure that is the fact anymore,” Cuomo said.
Children affected with the COVID-19 virus can become ill with symptoms “similar to the Kawasaki disease or toxic shock-like syndrome that literally causes inflammation in their blood vessels,” he said. It’s possible the syndrome has been “going on for weeks” and hasn’t been diagnosed, he added.
New York is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop national criteria for identifying and responding to the illness.
Dr. Dial Hewlett, from the Westchester County Department of Health, said at Cuomo’s news conference on Friday that the disease has been most common in households where parents or grandparents tested positive for COVID-19 but the children did not show symptoms initially before becoming seriously ill. “We must emphasize that based on what we know thus far, it appears to be a very rare condition,” Hewlett said.
Affected children have had COVID-19 antibodies or have tested positive for COVID-19 but didn’t show typical COVID-19 symptoms, Cuomo said.
“This is very serious,” County Executive George Latimer said at the Friday news conference. “The disease can be fatal, and we want to make sure everyone in Westchester County is aware to be on the lookout for symptoms that may lead to this.”
The symptoms include a prolonged fever of more than five days and difficulty in feeding for infants or drinking fluids in older children. Severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, or vomiting and a change in skin color—either becoming pale and patchy or blue—is also common in most young patients. Children also exhibit trouble breathing or a racing heart beat in addition to mood changes, lethargy and confusion.
Cuomo urged parents to seek medical attention if their children exhibits any symptoms whether they are living in a house with COVID-19 patients or not. “So this is every parent’s nightmare, right?” Cuomo said. “That your child may actually be affected by this virus. But it’s something we have to consider seriously now.”