Mystery Illness Affecting Children, Possibly Coronavirus Related

Mystery Illness Affecting Children, Possibly Coronavirus Related
Dr Barbot answers questions in video-press briefing. Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

The City issued an alert to health care providers after fifteen cases compatible with multi-system inflammatory syndrome were identified in children in New York City hospitals. The illness is associated with persistent fever and rash, features of Kawasaki disease and/or toxic shock syndrome, patients have also had upset stomach and vomiting. Of the 15 children, hospitalized between April 17th and May 1st, four tested positive for COVID-19 and another 6 had antibodies, suggesting they had had the illness, thankfully none have died.

The mystery disease came to light in a report by NBC New York on a child in Queens, who in a matter of days went from mildly ill to cardiac arrest.

Health officials warn that early recognition is essential, as cases may require intensive care unit admission for cardiac and/or respiratory support and doctors are required to immediately report cases to the New York City Health Department.

“So, this particular condition, even though it’s rare, here are the symptoms and again, this affects children, fever, rash, abdominal pain and vomiting. If your children are experiencing any child’s experiencing these symptoms, particularly in combination, call your doctor right away. We want to make sure that if a child is dealing with this reality, they get the support that they need,” Mayor Bill de Blasio stressed at this morning’s press conference.

“Kawasaki’s illness is actually a rare condition,” Oxiris Barbot, NYC’s Health Commissioner shared. “When I was a pediatrician in clinical practice, I actually had patients with Kawasaki’s disease and what we see is generally children present with prolonged high fevers, several days of very high fevers. They can also have very red eyes very brightly colored lips, and then, you know, one of the hallmarks that we see is called what we call a strawberry tongue, which means their tongue is very bright and red. Then the other symptoms that children can have are rash. They can have swelling of their hands and feet, and generally, if the condition is identified early there is definitive treatment, and there are typically no long-term consequences. However, if this, the syndrome is not identified early, there can be long-term consequences, most commonly related to ongoing heart problems.”

In addition to the 15 cases in New York, similar cases have been identified in the UK and very small numbers of cases in Philadelphia and Boston.

There is much the doctors are still learning about COVID-19, Dr. Barbot said. “We have learned that, for example, in adults, the virus doesn’t just affect the lungs. It can also affect the kidneys. We are learning that even though children by and large are mildly affected when it comes to COVID-19 that there can be situations where they are more severely affected.”

She appealed to parents:

“We want parents to pay attention so when they see these symptoms to reach out to their doctors early, because the most important thing in this situation here again is not only diagnosing it early but providing the appropriate treatment early.”