NEW YORK -- 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 the novel coronavirus.
The city's 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. 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."
This story was originally published by Lauren Cook and Kala Rama at WPIX.