New York is investigating how Covid-19 impacts children after a 5-year-old boy in New York City died this week from coronavirus-related complications, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.
"This is every parent's nightmare, right? That your child may actually be affected by this virus. But it's something that we have to consider seriously now," Cuomo said at a news briefing in Poughkeepsie, New York. "While rare, we're seeing some cases where children affected with the Covid virus can become ill with symptoms similar to the Kawasaki disease or the toxic shock-like syndrome."
The child in NYC died Thursday and the state Department of Health is investigating several other cases, he said. Cuomo said there have been 73 cases in the state of children falling severely ill with the symptoms. State health data shows at least three children under 10 years old have died from the coronavirus in New York.
Toxic shock syndrome is a rare, life-threatening condition caused by bacteria getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins. Symptoms include a high temperature, a sunburn-like rash and flu-like symptoms such as a headache and sore throat.
Kawasaki disease causes swelling of the heart's blood vessels and mainly affects children under the age of 5, according to the U.K.'s NHS. Symptoms include a rash, swollen glands in the neck, dry or cracked lips and red fingers or toes. The Mayo Clinic says it is usually treatable.
"Caution to all people who again may have believed that their child couldn't be affected by Covid," Cuomo said. "This information suggests we may want to revisit that quote-unquote fact, that assumption, and if you see any of the symptoms that are on the chart that your child is evidencing, caution should be taken."
Children generally do not develop severe disease from the coronavirus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the CDC noted in a report last month that "Severe outcomes have been reported in children, including three deaths."
"Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults," the CDC's site says. "While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date."
The World Health Organization has previously warned that the coronavirus appears to cause some children to develop symptoms consistent with Kawasaki syndrome.
The WHO has asked its global network of clinicians to be "on alert" for such cases around the world. The coronavirus, which is primarily a respiratory disease, is affecting more than just the lungs, as first thought, said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's emergencies program.
"Obviously it's causing inflammation and attacks tissue other than lung tissue," he said. "We are in a situation where clinicians are looking at what those other effects of having this coronavirus infection are."
It's "very important" that researchers look further into such reports to better understand the nature of the virus and the disease it causes, Ryan said. He added that the condition remains very rare.
The spread of the virus in New York is decelerating in New York, Cuomo said, adding that "the beast is on the run."
The net change in Covid-19 hospitalizations and net change in intubations, or people placed on a ventilator, both fell onThursday, he said. He added that the number of new Covid-19 hospitalizations have remained basically flat for several days but remain far below the peak. He said 216 people died on Thursday in New York due to Covid-19, down from 231 on Wednesday.
"We're finally ahead of this virus. For so long we were playing catch up," he said. "I feel for the first time that we're actually ahead of it. We have shown that we can control the beast."
Cuomo said he's hesitant to begin reopening the economy as some other governors already have. He said other countries have reopened after wrestling with an epidemic and then had to close down again due to a resurgence. Cuomo acknwoledged that "the economics are devastating."
The U.S. Labor Department reported earlier Friday that 20.5 million workers lost their jobs in April, sending the unemployment rate skyrocketing to 14.7%.
"There is no doubt that this is a horrific period to live though," Cuomo said. "But we have to get through it ... If we make a mistake and we react too quickly, the situation's only going to get worse and only going to get longer."