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Cuomo warns of possible COVID-related illness impacting children

According to the state, symptoms include prolonged fever, severe abdominal pain and change in skin color.

NEW YORK — "This is the last thing that we need at this time," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a daily coronavirus briefing on Saturday.

Cuomo said the New York State Department of Health is looking into young people developing an illness that could be connected to COVID-19.

"Toddler, elementary school children are presenting symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic-shock-like syndrome," he said. 

According to the state, symptoms include prolonged fever, severe abdominal pain and change in skin color.  

"There are 73 cases that the (New York State) Department of Health, Dr. (Howard) Zucker, is now studying, but the illness has taken the lives of three young New Yorkers," Cuomo said.

The governor said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked New York to develop national criteria so other states and hospital symptoms can be checking into this as well.

We reached out to local medical experts for their input.

Dr. Thomas Russo, the Chief of Infectious Disease at the University at Buffalo, told 2 on Your Side, "The first thing that's important to realize about this newly recognized syndrome is to date we've felt that children primarily had asymptomatic or very mild disease and did extraordinarily well with this infection. This new syndrome is concerning because it's very serious and children are critically ill and it's life-threatening."

Added Dr. David Hughes, the Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer with Kaleida Health: "It’s something called Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome, and it’s kind of a disease process that we are, to be honest, unclear of the etiology. It may be COVID-19."

While we don't know of any confirmed cases in this area, it is something local hospitals are aware of.  

Dr. Hughes told 2 On Your Side they've submitted information on those two cases to the state, so they can determine whether COVID-19 was responsible.

When it comes to what parents need to be thinking about now, there is some difference in opinion.

"People need to be aware of this because it could occur anywhere where there's new coronavirus infection, and so it's critical that they're aware of this, because if their children develop compatible symptoms, they need to be brought to health care attention immediately for treatment," Dr. Russo said. 

Dr. Hughes told 2 On Your Side, "This is something that, from a parent perspective, I would not be particularly concerned in our community. It's very, very rare, number one. And if your child is sick, you should speak with your pediatrician or their doctor to have a conversation and then keep an eye on them and make sure they're eating, drinking."

According to the state, New Yorkers should seek immediate care if a child has:

  • Prolonged fever (more than five 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

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