15 children hospitalized in NYC with mysterious syndrome possibly linked to COVID-19

Fifteen children, many of whom tested positive for or had previously been exposed to the novel coronavirus, have recently been admitted to New York City hospitals with a mysterious illness possibly linked to COVID-19, health officials said in an alert Monday night.

The patients, aged 2 to 15, had been hospitalized in intensive care from April 17 to May 1 with various symptoms associated with toxic shock or Kawasaki disease, a rare inflammatory syndrome typically affecting children under the age of 5. None of the reported patients have died, though more than half required blood pressure support and five needed mechanical ventilation, according to the bulletin posted by the New York City Health Department.

"Clinical features vary, depending on the affected organ system, but have been noted to include features of Kawasaki disease or features of shock," Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, deputy city health commissioner for disease control, said in the alert Monday night. "However, the full spectrum of disease is not yet known."

All 15 patients had subjective or measured fever while more than half reported rash, abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea. Less than half of those patients reported respiratory symptoms, according to the city health department, which described the mystery ailment as a "multi-system inflammatory syndrome potentially associated with COVID-19."

Molecular diagnostic testing showed four of the patients were positive for the virus strain that causes COVID-19, while antibody testing revealed that six who had tested negative were likely previously infected with the virus.

The New York City Health Department had identified the 15 patients by contacting pediatric intensive care units in hospitals across the city over the past week.

"Only severe cases may have been recognized at this time," Daskalakis said.

A growing number of hospitals in the United States and Europe have reported similar cases, raising concerns of a new global pattern emerging of critically ill children with COVID-19.