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Cuomo directs New York hospitals to prioritize COVID-19 testing for children showing symptoms of mysterious illness

Mystery illness killing children
Mystery illness killing children 01:59

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday directed the state's hospitals to prioritize COVID-19 testing for children showing symptoms of "pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome," a mysterious illness affecting children that's believed to be related to COVID-19. There are already more than 50 cases of the illness in New York City alone, according to CBS New York, and the state is investigating approximately 100 total statewide.

Two children and a teenager have died from the illness in New York State, according to a press release from Cuomo's office. 

"We have been behind this virus every step of the way and even as we are now beginning to see the numbers on the decline, the virus is still surprising us," Governor Cuomo said in the release. "Initially we thought COVID-19 didn't affect children, and now we're dealing with a disturbing issue where we have about 100 cases of an inflammatory disease in children that seems to be created by the virus."

"New York is leading the investigation of this situation and we are advising all hospitals and medical providers to prioritize diagnostic testing for any children that are displaying symptoms of this illness," he added. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that New York has at least 52 cases of the illness, and one of the deaths. Ten more cases are pending. 

"It's sobering. It's bluntly frightening, and I want to say to parents out there: If you're hearing this information about pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome and it sounds scary, it does sound scary. I'm speaking as a parent myself," de Blasio said. 

Of the 62 confirmed or possible cases, 25 tested positive for the coronavirus and 22 had COVID-19 antibodies.

"Often times when they get the results back from COVID-19, the results may actually be negative," New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said Monday. "We are encouraging pediatricians to also do antibody testing for these children, more so to confirm the diagnosis, not as an indication of whether or not it's going to then impact the case moving forward."

Experts say the illness bears some resemblance to a rare condition called Kawasaki disease

Mayor Bill de Blasio said early detection makes all the difference, and parents should be on the lookout for persistent fever, rash, abdominal pain and vomiting. 

"If your child is off, if your child doesn't have energy, if your child is not themselves and has at least one of these symptoms, call immediately to your doctor, your health care provider," he said. "If you see multiple symptoms, even more urgent."

Officials say care should be sought immediately if a child has: 

  • Prolonged fever (more than 5 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 or frequency of urine
  • Lethargy, irritability or confusion.

Doctors say kids over the age of 2 should wear masks whenever they go outside, practice social distancing and stay indoors as much as possible.

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