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ALBANY, N.Y. – Three children have died in New York from inflammatory disease that might be linked to coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.
The announcement adds to the state's worry that it might be entering a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic where it strikes children, who before had been considered low-risk for the virus.
"This is the last thing we need at this time," Cuomo said at his daily briefing in Manhattan.
Cuomo said New York is up to at least 73 cases of the illness, which appears similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome, including a persistent fever.
The governor didn't give details about where the deaths occurred, but he said Friday that one was of a 5-year-old boy in New York City, and Westchester County officials said Friday that one death was reported locally, along with 11 children who had been hospitalized.
The illness has been called Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome Associated with COVID-19, and Cuomo said the state will launch an investigation into it in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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According to the state Department of Health, the potential symptoms that should prompt caregivers to seek immediate medical attention for a child include:
Prolonged fever (more than five days).
Difficulty feeding (infants) or is too sick to drink fluids.
Severe abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting.
Change in skin color - becoming pale, patchy and/or blue.
Trouble breathing or is breathing very quickly.
Racing heart or chest pain.
Decreased amount of frequency in urine.
Lethargy, irritability or confusion.
Cuomo's directive to the health department will aim to develop "a case definition" for the illness "to determine whether the remaining cases under investigation are definitively associated with the syndrome."
New York has been the epicenter for COVID-19 in the nation. It reported 226 deaths on Friday alone, bringing the state's death toll to 21,045, by far the most in the U.S.
In Westchester, the children had symptoms four to six weeks after initial exposure to the coronavirus disease, local officials said Friday.
On Wednesday, New York issued a health advisory to medical professionals to be on the lookout for the virus among children and to report any cases to the state.
The symptoms have been considered similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome because of their inflammatory nature and fever, but experts have been unsure whether the diseases are linked.
The new condition was first reported by doctors in Britain, Italy and Spain in late April, and experts said it appears to particularly hit children ages 2 to 6.
"With each passing day, we're learning more about this terrible virus, and this potentially new development requires even greater understanding," Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner, said in a statement.
"We'll devote the resources of the department to research each potential case and share our findings with healthcare providers around the state and country."
Joseph Spector is the New York state editor for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JSPECTOR@Gannett.com or followed on Twitter: @GannettAlbany
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This article originally appeared on New York State Team: Coronavirus: 3 New York children die from disease similar to Kawasaki