Three children in New York have died of a mysterious inflammatory illness that may be related to COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.
The victims include a 5-year-old in New York City, a 7-year-old in Westchester County, and a teenager in Suffolk County.
The New York State Department of Health is investigating at least 73 reported cases in New York where predominantly school-aged children are experiencing symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock-like syndrome, possibly due to COVID-19, the governor's office said Saturday.
These symptoms include persistent fever, rash, abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea, and "cardiovascular symptoms" that require intensive care.
Kawasaki disease is a rare childhood illness that causes inflammation in blood vessels.
Cuomo said that the CDC has asked New York to "develop a national criteria for this illness." The state's health department is also working with the NY Genome Center and Rockefeller University to conduct a study to help better understand the illness.
"This is a frightening new development, but rest assured we are doing everything we can to learn more and keep parents informed," Cuomo said in a statement.
While state and global health officials have said that this illness is rare, the Department of Health released a May 6 advisory for hospitals, healthcare providers, and labs about a "pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome potentially associated with COVID-19" for those under the age of 21.
Cuomo cautioned parents to look out for symptoms of the illness and to "seek help immediately if your child is sick."
The Kawasaki disease-like symptoms "may occur days to weeks after acute COVID-19 illness," the governor's office said. It affects primarily toddler to elementary school-age children.
Health authorities in the UK have also reported a possible link between pediatric COVID-19 and a serious inflammatory disease, saying that there was a “small rise in the number of cases of critically ill children" with these symptoms.
Many of the children had tested positive for COVID-19 and showed symptoms of toxic shock syndrome or Kawasaki disease, UK health authorities said.
At a recent COVID-19 news briefing, a World Health Organization official said they were aware of reports in the UK and some European countries about a “small number” of such cases among children but assured parents that the illness appeared to be “very rare.”
Earlier this week, the NYC Health Department said that 15 children, between the ages of 2 and 15 years, had been admitted to pediatric intensive care units between April 17 and May 1 with symptoms of the inflammatory syndrome.
Four of them tested positive for COVID-19, while 11 of them tested negative. Subsequent antibody testing turned up positive in six of the negative cases, indicating that they may have been exposed to or infected with the virus in the past.
Most children who get COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. As of Friday, 7 children between the ages of 0-17 have died of COVID-19 in New York City, according to the health department.