Health officials are looking into a rare inflammatory syndrome and how it could be impacting children during the coronavirus pandemic.
Now 15 states, including New York, are investigating cases that could be linked to Kawasaki disease – a rare inflammatory condition that often impacts children aged five years or younger – and toxic shock syndrome, Governor Andrew Cuomo said during his press briefing on Wednesday.
New York has discovered 102 cases in children that show symptoms similar to the rare disease and are now looking to see if there is a connection with Covid-19.
“We have lost three children in New York because of this. A five-year-old boy, a seven-year-old boy and an 18-year-old girl,” Mr Cuomo said. “These cases are all across the state, predominantly where the population is.”
He added that 14 other states and five European countries were also looking into the rare syndrome to see if there was a link to those symptoms and the novel virus.
About 60 per cent of the 102 cases in New York tested positive for the coronavirus. Of those cases, 70 per cent were admitted into the ICU and 19 per cent resulted in intubation.
“Which means it’s serious,” Mr Cuomo added.
The potential link between the coronavirus and these inflammatory syndromes has caused concern among officials because children are presenting symptoms far different from the typical Covid-19 patient. The novel virus often attacks the upper respiratory system, causing a cough or difficulty breathing. But symptoms related to the rare inflammatory disease instead show swelling and redness in the body’s blood vessels.
An estimated 3,000 children are diagnosed with Kawasaki disease in the US each year.
“These are children who come in who don’t present the symptoms that we normally are familiar with with Covid. It’s not a respiratory illness, they’re not in respiratory distress. I think that’s one of the reasons why this may be getting discovered this far into the process,” the governor said last week.
New York hospitals are now required to report to the state health department any children who are showing symptoms mirroring Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also asked New York to develop national criteria for other states and hospital systems to assist them in recognising similar patients.
Previously, health officials believed children were largely unaffected by severe symptoms of Covid-19. People aged 60 or over and those with comorbidities are more at risk.
“Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for Covid-19 than adults,” the CDC’s site says. “While some children and infants have been sick with Covid-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date.”
The department still noted, though, that “severe outcomes have been reported in children, including three deaths”.
“One of the few rays of good news was young people weren’t affected. We’re not so sure that is the fact anymore,” Mr Cuomo added.
Connecticut reported its first case related to the syndrome on Monday. In total, health officials in the state were investigating at least six cases related to the syndrome. New Jersey also announced it was investigating 10 potential cases, none of which were fatal.
The UK, Spain, and Italy are among the European countries also investigating cases related to the syndrome.
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