New York faces new challenges in battling inflammation disease affecting 85 children

Photo via Flickr/NYC Mayor’s Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday that 38 New York City children have come down with a potentially deadly illness that’s been linked to COVID-19 — yet diagnosing this illness has proven difficult.

Fever, rash, abdominal pain and vomiting in a child could be a sign they are experiencing a form of Kawasaki Disease, an inflammation of the blood vessels. Last week, the city’s Health Department issued a health alert about Kawasaki Disease, but as of now, there still is no official criteria for diagnosing.

The de Blasio administration, however, simply believes the bottom line is testing, something they say the federal government is falling short on providing.

“Of the cases that have been verified, 47% of the kids involved tested positive for the coronavirus at that point; of those who tested negative, 81% had the antibodies,” de Blasio said. “Suffice it to say that, for the past 10 weeks all day every day, we’ve all been talking about the coronavirus nonstop and looking at so many different elements around it, and this particular challenge around kids came up literally days ago.”

For the time being, City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said identifying the syndrome similar to Kawasaki Disease all boils down to how well-schooled practitioners are on the inflammatory illness and making an early diagnosis.

“I think, probably, the most important thing that the federal government can do in this situation is really help us maximize the number of people who are getting tested,” Barbot said. “This response has been hampered by universal lack of access to testing, I think that is one additional way in which that is being manifested.”

First identified in the United Kingdom two to three weeks ago, according to Barbot, of the 38 inflammation cases reported in New York City, one child has died. Governor Andrew Cuomo took notice of the situation and announced Saturday an effort to establish diagnostic and treatment criteria.

Barbot said the best method for identifying the new manifestation of the condition is if doctors observe symptoms of Kawasaki Disease, but in an atypical manner. Prolonged fevers and symptoms consistent with shock may set this condition apart from Kawasaki, according to Barbot.

“The reality is that this is still evolving … It may be that this case definition evolves so it may be that we add more children,” Barbot said.

According to Cuomo, the problem is on a larger scope.

Statewide, Cuomo said there have been 85 cases of the COVID-19-related illness identified and his administration is investigating. Inflammation of the heart and blood vessel are hallmarks, he said, and three children have died in New York while other states are being warned of the danger.

On the battlefront against coronavirus, de Blasio also appealed on Sunday for additional doses of a drug that’s proven effective in treating seriously ill patients.

Remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences, is an antiviral drug being distributed across the country for trials against COVID-19. But de Blasio’s main concern was that the city did not get it’s fair share of doses stating that with New York being the epicenter of the epidemic in the country it would benefit New Yorkers more than other cities and states.

New York City has only received 4,000 doses of Remdesivir.

“We need that number greatly intensified, in fact, we need about 10 times that much just to get started,” said de Blasio.

Gilead provided 500,000 doses of Remdesivir to the federal government for distribution. De Blasio said he has reached out to the White House about procuring additional doses for the city.

This story first appeared on amny.com.

More from Around New York