Surge Of Kawasaki Disease Continues In San Diego County
San Diego County continues to see a surge in the number of children diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, an illness that can fatally damage the heart.
“So far this year we’ve had 45 cases, which is a very unusual uptick in the number that we would typically see at this time of year,” said Jane Burns, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at UC San Diego and director of the Kawasaki Disease Research Center.
Kawasaki disease generally affects children under the age of 5. Symptoms start with a fever and rash, along with red hands, feet, and eyes.
Burns said the disease is treatable if children receive medical attention early. But if left untreated, one in four children suffers extensive heart damage that can lead to an early death by young adulthood.
“If a child suffers damage to the coronary arteries, that is a lifelong problem,” Burns said. “They will require follow-up with a Kawasaki specialist or cardiologist for the rest of their life.”
Kawasaki disease is not contagious, Burns explained. It is believed to be caused by unusual weather patterns that trigger an immune response in genetically-susceptible children. Clusters of cases have been reported throughout the county.
“In March, we had a very tight cluster in the Chula Vista region,” Burns said. “In general the disease seems to have moved up into the Temecula, Hemet, Vista area—so inland and slightly north of downtown San Diego.”
San Diego County health officials issued an advisory in January, warning doctors and parents to be on the lookout for the disease. At the time, 16 children had been diagnosed.
For more information about the disease, visit the UC San Diego Kawasaki Disease Research Center website.