Kids Are Being Hospitalized in New York with Strange Heart Symptoms That Might Be Related to Coronavirus

Most tested positive for either the coronavirus or for the antibodies. But some tested negative for both.
May 5, 2020, 3:08pm
Most tested positive for either the coronavirus or for the antibodies that indicate that they likely previously had the virus

Fifteen kids in New York City have been hospitalized since mid-April with strange symptoms, including inflamed arteries in their hearts, that might be related to COVID-19, the city’s health department announced Monday.

The doctors don’t yet know exactly what’s going on with the children, but more than half were treated with drugs that raise blood pressure, and five of the 15 were put on mechanical ventilators. None of them have died.

Their symptoms, including inflamed blood vessels, are similar to toxic-shock syndrome or a rare disease called Kawasaki Syndrome, which causes swollen feet, rash, and pink eye. Of the 15 kids displaying these symptoms, most tested positive for either the coronavirus or for the antibodies that indicate that they likely previously had the virus. Some, however, tested negative for both virus and antibodies.

Strangely, fewer than half of the children, between the ages of 2 and 15, had respiratory symptoms, which have been the defining feature of COVID-19 in adults.

“If your child has symptoms like fever, rash, abdominal pain or vomiting, call your doctor right away,” Dr. Oxiris Barbot, New York City’s health commissioner, said in a statement.

Though there have only been 15 recognized cases of children with this condition so far, the city’s health department stressed in a bulletin that it’s possible that only severe cases may have been recognized so far. The New York State health commissioner, Howard Zucker, told the New York Times that the state is also investigating, and that he’d spoken with hospitals throughout the state about it.

“What we have been seeing is that there are some children who may have an inflammation of those blood vessels, and are developing a toxic-shock-like syndrome,” Zucker told the Times. Toxic-shock syndrome, usually the result of a bacterial infection, can produce symptoms like diarrhea, rash, and fever.

Kids have shown similar symptoms in Europe, in places that have been hit by the coronavirus outbreak. A single hospital in Northern Italy treated more than 20 cases of kids with these unusual symptoms in a single month. Doctors in Paris and London have also seen pediatric patients with inflamed blood vessels.

It’s still not clear that this disease is linked to COVID-19, and it remains very rare. The virus has been largely sparing children: In New York City, which has been the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, nearly 20,000 people have died of the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Only six children in the city have been confirmed to have died of the virus.

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Cover: A woman adjusts her child's protective mask as they wait in line to be screened for COVID-19 at Gotham Health East New York, Thursday, April 23, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)