Three children have died and more than 70 others have been sickened from a “truly disturbing” illness connected to COVID-19, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday.
Cuomo said that the state Health Department has launched an investigative response into reports of children being hospitalized with symptoms of Kawasaki Disease or toxic shock syndrome. The illnesses are causing inflammation of blood vessels among infants, toddlers and elementary school children, and could cause heart damage and/or death if left untreated.
The New York City Health Department had issued a health alert about Kawasaki Disease earlier this week after reporting that 15 children had developed symptoms. It appears the disease is connected to COVID-19 infection.
According to the Governor’s office, the three children killed from complications of the disorder include a five-year-old from New York City, a seven-year-old from Westchester County and a Suffolk County teen.
During his May 9 press conference, Cuomo said that the children sickened with Kawasaki disease or toxic shock-like syndrome either tested positive for COVID-19 or had antibodies for the virus in their system.
“These are children who come in [to the hospital] who don’t present the symptoms normally associated with COVID-19,” Cuomo said. Generally, infected patients requiring hospitalization exhibit respiratory distress.
The governor said the Health Department has communicated with federal officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the suspected Kawasaki Disease cases. The CDC has asked New York state to develop national criteria to help other states and hospital systems across the country respond to similar cases.
Additionally, Cuomo said the state is working with the New York Genome Center and Rockefeller University to conduct an RNA sequencing study to define how and why these cases are developing.
“This is the last thing that we need at this time with all that’s going on, with all the anxiety we have,” Cuomo stated. “We still have a lot to learn about this virus (COVID-19) and every day is another eye-opening situation. Rest assured, the Health Department is doing everything they can do.”
Kawasaki Disease is a rare condition. Symptoms include a fever, rash, abdominal pain, a racing heartbeat or chest pain, changes in skin color, decreased frequencies in urination and vomiting. Children who become infected often develop very brightly colored lips and tongue, City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot reported on May 4.
The city’s Health Department advises parents to call their child’s doctor immediately if their young one exhibits any or multiple Kawasaki Disease symptoms.