What to Know About the Mysterious Coronavirus-Related Illness Affecting Children

Cases of a mysterious blood illness related to the coronavirus have been seen in children across the United States.

The illness, currently called pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome, presents similarly to Kawasaki disease, a rare but treatable condition that causes inflammation in blood vessels. It seems to affect the heart of those who may have been infected with COVID-19 but does not include the landmark symptoms: coughing and shortness of breath.

NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres appeared on Today to discuss the illness and what parents should be on the lookout for in children.

The symptoms include: a prolonged fever lasting more than five days, severe abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting, patchy blue or pale skin discoloration, trouble breathing or rapid breathing, lethargy and rapid heart rate.

Torres added that children can present with this mysterious illness up to six weeks after recovering from coronavirus. He said that though it’s early and doctors are still learning more, the death rate seems to be around 0.1 percent.

"No one's exactly sure how it relates to COVID, and they're not entirely sure all of those cases are related to COVID, but in medical parlance, we call it correlation without causation," he said. "They think this has to do with kids' immune systems going into hyperactive overdrive, which is different than adults' systems, [which] can't get hyperactive when they have COVID."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that three children in the state, a 5-year-old, 7-year-old and a teenager, had died from the illness.

The New York City Health Department first issued a memo about the inflammatory syndrome on May 4. At the time, there had been 15 reported cases in the state occurring in kids ages 2 to 15. The number grew to 73 by Friday, and increased to 85 by Sunday.

“One of the few rays of good news was young people weren’t affected. We’re not so sure that that is the fact anymore,” Cuomo said during Saturday’s press briefing. “Toddler, elementary school children are presenting symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease disease or toxic-shock like syndrome.”

In addition to the cases in New York, cases have been reported in at least nine other states and Washington, D.C. Doctors in the U.K, Spain and Italy also previously reported seeing the illness, which started appearing within the last month.

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