FILE PHOTO: Scientists work in a lab testing COVID-19 samples at New York City's health department, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York U.S., April 23, 2020. Picture taken April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/

More than a dozen children on Long Island have are being treated in intensive care units for a rare inflamatory syndrome believed to be associated with exposure to coronavirus.

Reports of 17 kids admitted to ICU units in Nassau County emerged Tuesday. The next day, the New York State Department of Health issued an advisory for healthcare providers to look for and report possible cases of “Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome Potentially Associated with COVID-19″ as the number of children statewide presenting with similar symptoms rose to 64. 

“This is certainly new and concerning,” Nassau Health Department Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein told reporters this week. “This in theory is a post-infectious reaction. It’s not unusual in children even adults to have post-viral immune response.”

First reported in Italy, Spain, and Britain, where at least one child has died of the syndrome, cases are now emerging in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, although there are no reported fatalities associated with the condition in the United States.

Clinical trials are now being assembled to study the syndrome and figure out how best to treat it. The disorder can attack multiple organs, impair heart function, and weaken heart arteries.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is working with the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists and other groups to gather data to better understand and characterize the syndrome, according to an emailed statement.

Not every child that has developed the condition has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but enough have for doctors to believe the conditions are linked.

For most children, COVID-19 disease is mild, and children are far less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than adults, according to the CDC.

“Children seem to laugh off COVID-19 most of the time,” said Dr. Jane Newburger, a pediatric cardiologist at Harvard’s Boston Children’s Hospital. “But rarely, a child will develop this hyper-inflammatory state.”

-With Reuters

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