NEW YORK CITY — Doctors in New York City are facing new concerns as at least 15 children have been hospitalized with a rare disease that could be linked to COVID-19.
The city Department of Health issued an alert Monday about Kawasaki disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes the walls in the blood vessels to become inflamed.
Symptoms include a persistent fever, abdominal pain, vomiting and a sunburn-like rash. Additional symptoms may include pink eye and swollen lymph nodes.
Parents should call their child’s doctor immediately if they develop symptoms, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.
“We want to make sure they get the support they need,” de Blasio added.
Early diagnosis and referral to critical care, if needed, are essential in preventing long-term complications, according to the Department of Health.
“It causes weakness of the heart muscle. It can cause aneurysms — a weakening of the vessel that allows it to burst,” said Dr. Robert Segal, cardiologist and president of labfinder.com. “So really, you’re talking about a multi-system issue here with the virus as it relates to what the inflammatory response is as well as what our own immune system is doing to combat it.”
The children hospitalized in New York City range in age from 2 to 15 years old, and all are being treated in pediatric intensive care units. Of those diagnosed with the disease, four have tested positive for COVID-19 and another six tested positive for the virus antibodies, de Blasio said.
NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said even though not all of the children with Kawasaki disease have tested positive for COVID-19, they are alerting health care providers out of an abundance of caution.
“We will spare no effort to protect the health of our city’s children. We are alerting thousands of providers throughout the city of this recently recognized syndrome in children so that they can be diagnosed and treated early to avoid long-term complications,” Barbot said in a statement. “Even though the relationship of this syndrome to COVID-19 is not yet defined and not all of these cases have tested positive for COVID-19 by either DNA test or serology, the clinical nature of this virus is such that we are asking all providers to contact us immediately if they see patients who meet the criteria we’ve outlined.”
Dr. George Ofori-Amanfo, who leads pediatric critical care at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital, said his department is working with researchers, experts and the Department of Health to track and understand why children are presenting these symptoms.
“We do not know if the underlying condition is COVID-19 or another inflammatory process but we want to reassure the public that this is a very rare occurrence. If parents suspect these types of symptoms, they should immediately call their pediatrician,” he said in a statement to PIX11 News on Tuesday. “We will continue to work closely with governmental partners and the academy to report observations and to share information regarding this unusual presentation with pediatricians in the Mount Sinai network.”
Dr. Dyan Hes is a pediatrician who has practiced in New York City for more than 20 years and she believes these new developments must force everyone to be more vigilant, but also proves why children should not be ignored.From the beginning of the pandemic, she says children should have been tested for COVID-19 and should receive anti-body testing.
“We want to see children. We want to test them. We don’t have the protective gear. We have not been prioritized,” said Dr. Hes.
As offices like hers at Gramercy Pediatrics, continue to treat patients, she says they have been left out of the conversation almost entirely during this pandemic.Hes saying obtaining PPE has been difficult and her office is down to 45 gowns.Currently, doctors and nurses use one gown a week unless it becomes soiled.As for masks, they rotate them every four days.
For frightened parents, Dr. Hes says it’s important to remember Kawasaki is largely treatable.