Children wearing face masks play on their scooters in New York City.
Children wearing face masks play on their scooters in New York City.

Although COVID-19 affects children less frequently, officials say they have been diagnosed in the New York area with a serious mystery illness connected to it that affects the heart and blood vessels. The state's Health Department said on Wednesday that 64 children were hospitalised with "Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome (PMSIS) Potentially Associated with COVID-19".

The children who were found to have inflammation of the blood vessels, including coronary arteries, also tested positive for COVID-19 and many required respirators.

In an advisory to hospitals and other medical facilities, the health department described it as similar to Kawasaki disease, which causes inflammation of the blood vessels, and toxic shock syndrome.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Kawasaki disease named for the Japanese doctor who first diagnosed it is a leading cause of acquired heart disease in the US.

NYC Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said that even though children are by and large mildly affected by COVID-19, they are more severely affected when PMSIS develops. Detailing the symptoms, she said: "Generally, children present with prolonged high fevers, several days of very high fevers. They can also have very red eyes, very brightly coloured lips. One of the hallmarks that we see is what we call a strawberry tongue, which means their tongue is very bright and red."

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