A mysterious illness affecting children, possibly linked to the coronavirus, is now blamed for at least three deaths in New York, reports CBS News senior medical correspondent Dr. Tara Narula.

New York State is investigating at least 85 reported cases of what many are calling “pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrom” that is potentially associated with COVID-19. Governor Andrew Cuomo warned, “This does not present as a normal COVID case. COVID cases tend to be respiratory; this presents as an inflammation of the blood vessels.”

In many cases, children did not have respiratory issues; instead they experienced abdominal symptoms, a change in skin color, or chest pain.

“What we’re seeing is, the immune system’s actually going into overdrive, impacting the body in a negative way,” said Dr. Jake Kleinmahon, a pediatric cardiologist at Ochsner Hospital for Children in New Orleans.  “Some of these patients are having inflammation of their coronary arteries, and you can basically have a heart attack.”

Dr. Kleinmahon has already treated several children for this illness, including 12-year-old Juliet Daly.  “Her heart was not functioning,” Juliet’s mother, Jennifer Daly, said last week. “Her heart was inflamed so badly that the conduction system was not working in her heart. So, it was barely pumping. She was in heart failure.”

Hospitals in at least six states have reported seeing similar cases. The illness is so concerning that New York City issued a health alert about it last week.

Dr. Kleinmahon said, “If you’re not really aware of this syndrome that’s being described, it could easily be missed. Fortunately, children overall are very resilient in almost all the cases. And if we’re able to knock down the inflammation and get them past the beginning stages of this, they’re usually doing very well.”

Experts say this illness bears some resemblance to a rare condition called Kawasaki disease. Governor Cuomo said his state’s Department of Health will work with the CDC and the New York Genome Center to study the illness.

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When asked about the symptoms and rarity of the condition, Narula said, “I do think it’s important to stress that in the grand scheme of the pandemic, this is rare. We’re still learning a lot more about it. 

“The important thing for parents is, if their child does have the prolonged high fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, change in the color of their skin, or their lips, or chest pain, that’s something they should act on quickly. In many of these cases the kids have decompensated or deteriorated quickly.”

If you notice any of those symptoms, Dr. Narula said, call your doctor.

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