ALBANY — The state is investigating 85 potential cases of what may be a new coronavirus-related inflammatory illness in children.
Three children have died, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday, and the state is investigating two additional deaths.
Two of the victims were elementary school-age and the other, an adolescent.
All three had no known underlying conditions, said Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner, and lived in three counties.
Children had previously been thought to be less impacted by the virus, which has killed over 21,000 New Yorkers, and the emerging symptoms have introduced what Cuomo called “an entirely different chapter in our fight against this virus.”
The illness known as “pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome” causes inflammation of the circulatory system and heart and presents symptoms similar to toxic-shock syndrome and Kawasaki disease.
The state Department of Health is in the process of notifying its counterparts in 49 other states.
Symptoms include prolonged fever, trouble breathing, severe abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting, decreased amount of frequency in urine, racing heart or chest pain, changes in skin tone and, for infants, difficulty feeding.
“The most important thing parents should do is err on the side of caution,” Zucker said.
Cuomo urged parents to seek help immediately if symptoms present.
But he also called for a “delicate balance” between closely monitoring symptoms and reacting appropriately.
“We don’t want a situation where [your child] gets a rash and every parent rushes to get a coronavirus test,” Cuomo said.
The definitive connection between the mysterious illness and coronavirus is unclear.
Testing, however, has revealed many of the children under investigation have COVID antibodies or have tested positive for the virus.
“But those were not the symptoms they showed when they came into the hospital system,” Cuomo said Saturday. “So it’s still very much a situation that is developing, but it is a serious situation.”
Zucker has directed a team of 30 health officials to probe the cases.
The CDC has also asked New York to develop national criteria to guide policy in other states and health care systems, Cuomo said on Saturday.
State health officials also work with the New York Genome Center and Rockefeller University to conduct a genome and RNA sequencing study to see if there is something about these children that may “present a definable situation,” Cuomo said.