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NYS: Mystery illness with possible links to COVID-19 impacts 100 children

Three children in New York have died as a result
Posted at 12:20 AM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 00:30:40-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Medical experts and New York State officials are warning parents about a new pediatric illness with possible links to COVID-19 called “Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome Associated with COVID-19.”

The illness is similar to Kawasaki syndrome or toxic shock and causes inflammation in blood vessels.

In a Tuesday congressional hearing, Dr. Anthony Fauci said: “I think we better be careful if we are not cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects.”

In New York, approximately 100 children are linked to this new syndrome with data showing more than half of patients are between the ages of 5 to 14 years old. Two boys ages five and seven and a teenage girl, age 18, all from downstate have died as a result.

“This is a new development in which we did not expect and it’s very, very troubling to me,” Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said in an interview with 7 Eyewitness News Tuesday night.

Over the weekend, it was announced the New York State Health Department is helping to develop national guidelines when it comes to “Pediatric Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome Associated with COVID-19.” The State Health Department will be looking at genetic factors playing a role in this syndrome in studies to be done alongside the NY Genome Center and Rockefeller University.

At a Tuesday press conference, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo directed hospitals across the state to prioritize COVID-19 testing for children. He said: “We have been behind this virus since the very beginning and it still surprises us.”

Has Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome impacted Western New York?

Out of the approximately 100 cases, Oishei Children's Hospital has reported three. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stephen Turkovich said the state asked the hospital to look back to March 1st for any cases with symptoms similar to the new syndrome.

“They didn’t have all of the symptoms that they were describing but they have some. The good news is all three of those children are healthy and home,” Dr. Turkovich said.

He added there is still a lot to learn about the illness and more details are emerging from cases in New York City and overseas in Europe every day. Right now, Dr. Turkovich says it appears to be a rare complication with a possible genetic link. Although it is similar to Kawasaki syndrome and toxic shock, it seems to have a greater impact on the heart.

"We're learning new information everyday, so more information to come,” Dr. Turkovich said

Oishei has been testing patients for COVID-19 since the start and so far about 10 children came back COVID-positive. All of them have been treated and released.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Nikki DeMentri asked Dr. Turkovich: “In the beginning of this pandemic it was thought that kids weren’t really impacted, but now there’s this. Should parents be worried?”

Dr. Turkovich said in response: “I think the vast majority of children are going to be either asymptomatic meaning they have no symptoms or very mild symptoms.” He continued, "My suspicion is if this is proven to be associated with COVID-19, it will likely be a rare complication of COVID-19, so parents shouldn’t worry, but it is something that you need to be on the lookout for.”

Symptoms of the syndrome include:

  • Fever lasting more than 5 days
  • Difficulty feeding (infants) or is too sick to drink fluids
  • Severe abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting
  • Change in skin color - becoming pale, patchy and/or blue
  • Trouble breathing or is breathing very quickly
  • Racing heart or chest pain
  • Decreased amount of frequency in urine
  • Lethargy, irritability or confusion

“You know your children best. If they’re acting very unusual, very sleepy and not themselves, certainly call your pediatrician or if you’re very concerned come to the ER,” Dr. Turkovich said.

There are treatment options for similar illnesses, but Dr. Turkovich said now the focus is on trying to find out what works best to treat this one. In the meantime, he wants parents to continue good health practices, which includes frequent hand washing, social distancing and wearing a mask over the age of two, with their children.