The state Department of Health is investigating what are now 85 children throughout the state who have been afflicted with a variety of symptoms, most of which are inconsistent with COVID-19.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said Sunday there has been a third death from what has been called Pediatric Multi System Inflammatory Syndrome, where some of the symptoms mimic Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome. All of the children have tested positive for the virus or have the antibodies for COVID-19.
Zucker said the Department of Health has a team of 30 to 40 members that are analyzing all 85 cases, including the three deaths. On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that a five-year-old New York City boy died that had been afflicted with the syndrome and Westchester County officials said another child died at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Valhalla. Since then a third child has been lost.
The other fatalities were an elementary school-age child and an adolescent, Zucker said. A preliminary investigation has not turned up any pre-existing health conditions that may have compromised their chances for recovery, although the Health Department’s evaluation is continuing, he said. All three children lived in separate counties.
“We weren’t looking for this because these children did not present respiratory illnesses,” Zucker said. “So all of a sudden, we hear about children with cardiac problems, inflammation of their blood vessels, we’re trying to figure out what is happening here. So the CDC is sending people up as well. We have a whole team investigating all these charts and we’re going to get to the bottom of it.”
On Friday, Westchester County Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler said symptoms include a combination of one or more problems such as persistent fever for more than four days, severe abdominal pain, vomiting and/or diarrhea, a rash, swollen hands or feet and enlarged lymph nodes, Amler said.
Dr. Michael Gewitz, the physician-in-chief at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, said during the county’s Friday briefing that if one or more of the symptoms appear in their child, particularly if someone at home has tested positive for the virus, they should immediately contact their health provider.
Cuomo said the CDC has asked New York State to develop national criteria for others states’ health departments to follow so officials around the country can be on the lookout for similar cases.
“This is the last thing we need at this time with all that’s going on with all the anxiety we have,” Cuomo said. “Now for parents to worry about whether or not their youngster was affected now with symptoms that don’t even seem like the symptoms we associate with COVID-19. We still have a lot to learn about this virus and every day is another eye-opening situation.”
Dr. Dial Hewlett, Westchester’s chief of communicable disease, said the children hospitalized in Westchester presented symptoms four to six weeks after initial exposure to COVID-19 was documented. The symptoms appeared two to four days before they were hospitalized, he said.