A 5-year-old child in New York has died of the mysterious syndrome that might be associated with the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at his daily press conference Friday.
Kids have been falling ill with strange symptoms — including conjunctivitis, swollen hands and feet, and, in severe cases, inflammation of coronary arteries — that look like a rare condition called Kawasaki Syndrome. Many of the children falling ill with these symptoms have tested positive for the coronavirus, and doctors are investigating how the virus might be linked to the condition.
So far, 73 children in New York State have come down with the disease. As of Friday, Cuomo said one child had died. The child was being treated at Mt. Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital in Manhattan, according to the New York Times.
The emergence of these symptoms undermines the idea that children have been completely spared by the virus. Early data out of China indicated that no children had died from COVID-19. Children have been largely spared — only about 20 children have been confirmed to have died of the coronavirus in the U.S. — and even this unusual syndrome remains rare. But these Kawasaki Syndrome–like symptoms were showing up in kids in Europe in areas hard-hit by the coronavirus. A single hospital in Northern Italy treated at least 20 children with the symptoms.
“This would be really painful news and would open up an entirely different chapter,” Cuomo 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.”
Still, doctors say the condition remains very rare. “While it is concerning that children are affected, we must emphasize that based on what we know thus far, it appears to be a very rare condition,” Lucia Lee, a spokeswoman for the Mount Sinai Health System, told the New York Times.
The New York State Department of Health put out a call Monday for hospitals to report these symptoms in pediatric patients to the state. There isn’t much data yet on how many children might be coming down with the syndrome.
If these symptoms are caused by the virus, the infection is taking a very different toll on children than it is on adults. In adults, the virus generally attacks the lungs. In children, it could be attacking the heart. The inflammation of the coronary arteries causes a sudden drop in blood pressure and makes it difficult for blood to be pumped to their vital organs.