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Children Are Being Hospitalized With Rare Syndrome Possibly Linked To Coronavirus

Health authorities in New York City announced Monday that more than a dozen children have been hospitalized with a rare syndrome that could have ties to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. At least 15 children have recently been hospitalized in the city with symptoms consistent to those associated with a multi-system inflammatory syndrome, according to a health alert from the New York City Health Department. The alert follows reports that a number of children in Europe have also been hospitalized for the same syndrome.

Fifteen children aged 2 to 15 years old, some of whom tested positive for COVID-19 or had coronavirus antibodies, were hospitalized between April 17 and May 1 with symptoms compatible with pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome, the New York City Health Department said Monday. While the clinical manifestations of the pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome can vary depending on what organ system has been affected, the full spectrum of the disease remains unknown. However, health officials have said cases have so far included symptoms similar to those of Kawasaki disease or toxic shock.

While Kawasaki disease primarily affects children, Children's National Hospital notes that it's a relatively rare illness that causes inflammation of the arteries and blood vessels that could lead to complications that affect the heart. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, red rash, red eyes, swollen extremities, and diarrhea or vomiting.

Many of the symptoms experienced with Kawasaki disease are also symptoms associated with toxic shock syndrome, which is caused by Staphylococcus bacteria infections. According to Stanford Children's Health, symptoms of toxic shock syndrome include fever, fatigue, red rash, red eyes, low blood pressure, vomiting, and diarrhea.

According to New York City public health authorities, all 15 children had a measured or subjective fever. More than half of the children also experienced a rash, abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhea while less than half reported respiratory symptoms. No deaths have been reported, but Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted Tuesday that health authorities "are very concerned by what we’re seeing." All of the hospitalized children required cardiac and/or respiratory support while in pediatric intensive care units. More than half required blood pressure support, while five of the 15 children required mechanical ventilation.

Additionally, 10 of the children were determined to have had COVID-19 — four tested positive for the virus while six had antibodies, according to de Blasio — leading public health authorities to wonder if there may be a link between to the two illnesses.

The 15 children hospitalized in New York aren't the first cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome to have been reported in pediatric patients during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In April, England's National Health Service issued a health alert notifying doctors to a "small rise" in pediatric cases with "overlapping features of toxic shock syndrome and atypical Kawasaki disease with blood parameters consistent with severe COVID-19 in children," the Paediatric Intensive Care Society UK said in a statement regarding the NHS' alert. Similar cases have also been reported in Spain, France, and Italy, according to The New York Times. Additionally, in late April, CNN reported a 6-month of girl was being treated at Stanford Children's Hospital for both Kawasaki disease and coronavirus.

While doctors have yet to confirm a link between coronavirus and multi-system inflammatory syndrome symptoms, New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot and de Blasio have urged parents to seek medical treatment right away if their child presents any of the common symptoms. "To parents, if your child has symptoms like fever, rash, abdominal pain or vomiting, call your doctor right away," Barbot said in a statement.

"We’re learning more every day about how COVID-19 affects the body. This is a ferocious disease," de Blasio said on Twitter. "If your child is experiencing a persistent fever, rash, abdominal pain or vomiting, call your doctor right away."

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.