A small number of children in the U.S. and Europe have been hospitalized with an unknown blood illness that may be related to the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
Doctors say that the mysterious, “multisystem inflammatory” illness they’re seeing in children is similar to two known conditions: toxic shock syndrome, a life-threatening bacterial infection, and Kawasaki disease, a very rare, but treatable, condition more common in babies and toddlers that causes inflammation in blood vessels.
Doctors in the U.K., Spain and Italy had previously reported seeing a few cases of the illness, and on Monday night, the New York City Department of Health put out a memo to hospitals warning that there have now been 15 identified cases in the city’s hospitals.
The 15 children in NYC are between the ages of 2 and 15 and have symptoms similar to toxic shock syndrome and Kawasaki disease. All have had a fever, and most have had a rash, abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea. Four of the children have tested positive for COVID-19, but the other 11 did not.
None of the children have died, but most needed blood pressure support. And while the majority did not have respiratory problems, five needed to be put on ventilators.
NYC health commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot asked doctors to look out for patients who may have this illness.
“Even though the relationship of this syndrome to Covid-19 is not yet defined, and not all of these cases have tested positive for Covid-19 by either DNA test or serology, the clinical nature of this virus is such that we are asking all providers to contact us immediately if they see patients who meet the criteria we’ve outlined,” she said in the memo.
“And to parents, if your child has symptoms like fever, rash, abdominal pain or vomiting, call your doctor right away,” she added.
COVID-19 does not appear to affect children in the same way that it is attacking adults, although a small number of children in the U.S. have died from the virus. This illness, while worrisome, also seems to be very rare.
New York state health commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker said that they are investigating the illness.
“So far, from what we understand, this is a rare complication in the pediatric population that they believe is related to Covid-19,” he told The New York Times. “We are following it very closely.”
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