Calling it a “truly disturbing” development, the governor said he was increasingly worried that the new syndrome posed a newly emerging risk for children, who had previously been thought to be largely immune to severe illness from COVID-19.
Doctors describe the mysterious condition as “pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome,” and note that it has elements of toxic shock and Kawasaki disease, a disorder that causes swelling of arteries throughout the body and can cause heart problems.
“A pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome, recently reported by authorities in the United Kingdom, is also being observed among children and young adults in New York City and elsewhere in the United States,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, deputy commissioner of the New York City Health Department’s Division of Disease Control, in a statement (pdf) on May 4, in which he said that the “the full spectrum of disease is not yet known.”
The same condition was recently reported by British authorities, who on April 27 published a bulletin (pdf) noting a small rise in the number of cases of “critically ill children presenting with an unusual clinical picture,” Daskalakis noted.
Cuomo on Friday disclosed the death of a 5-year old linked to COVID-19 and the rare new inflammatory syndrome, noting that it was the first such known fatality in New York. On Saturday, Cuomo told a daily briefing that the new illness had now taken the lives of at least three young people across the state.
He said state health officials were reviewing 73 cases where children exposed to COVID-19 also exhibited symptoms of the syndrome.
Cuomo said New York’s health department had partnered with the New York Genome Center and the Rockefeller University to look at whether there is a genetic basis for the new condition, adding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had asked New York to develop national criteria for identifying and responding to the unknown disease.
In his statement, Daskalakis urged parents who suspect the above-described inflammatory syndrome in their children to seek medical attention immediately, as “early diagnosis and treatment of patients meeting full or partial criteria for Kawasaki disease is critical to preventing end-organ damage and other long-term complications.”
Kawasaki disease, with symptoms that can include high fever and peeling skin, causes swelling in the walls of medium-sized arteries throughout the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. The disease, sometimes called mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome, primarily affects children. The inflammation it causes tends to affect the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart.
Reuters contributed to this report.