The state of New York is investigating up to 85 cases of children with a rare inflammatory condition believed to be linked to the coronavirus. So far three of those children, who also tested positive for the virus, have died in New York, and two more deaths are under review, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
The pediatric cases in question share symptoms with toxic shock syndrome and Kawasaki disease, which can include inflammation of the blood vessels and potentially fatal heart damage.
Governor Cuomo told last Saturday that he was increasingly worried about this syndrome and he suggested the link between both diseases is still not fully understood.
"We are not so sure that is the fact anymore. Toddler, elementary school children are presenting symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock-like syndrome," Cuomo said. "It's very possible that this has been going on for several weeks and it hasn't been diagnosed as related.
The first case
The first death case, a 5-year old boy, was reported in New York on 9 May. Since that day, health officials were looking at other deaths involving children under similar circumstances.
Cases of rare, life-threatening inflammatory illnesses in children associated with exposure to COVID-19 were first reported in Britain, Italy and Spain, but doctors in the United States are starting to report clusters of kids with the disorder, which can attack multiple organs, impair heart function and weaken heart arteries.
The syndrome shares symptoms with toxic shock and Kawasaki disease, which is associated with fever, skin rashes, swelling of glands, and in severe cases, inflammation of arteries of the heart.
This emerging syndrome, which may occur days to weeks after a COVID-19 illness, reflects the surprising ways that this entirely new coronavirus infects and sickens its human hosts.
Opening an entirely new chapter
In Westchester County, a suburb of Manhattan, officials said on Friday that they were reviewing the recent death of another child that was possibly related to the syndrome and COVID-19 at the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital in Valhalla, New York.
"In these early stages, we cannot say with certainty whether this was specifically related to COVID-19, and not to underlying medical issues," the Westchester Medical Center Health Network, which counts the hospital in its network, said in a statement.
If the syndrome grows in prevelance it would shake a prior assumption that children by and large did not have to worry about COVID-19, Cuomo said.
"This would be really painful news and would open up an entirely different chapter," he said. "I can't tell you how many people I spoke to who took peace and solace in the fact that children were not getting infected."