Causes and Symptoms (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
The exact cause of Kawasaki disease is unknown. Approximately 80 percent of the victims are aged five and under. Some doctors believe that the disease may be an allergic reaction to certain types of infection. Others think that it is produced by a virus or bacterium. Some researchers believe that the source is an interaction of T cells, white blood cells that help regulate the immune system’s response to infections, with toxins produced by bacteria.
Kawasaki disease begins rather abruptly with a fever that persists for five days or longer and can reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit. A red, patchy rash typically spreads over the chest and genital area and may cover the entire body. The lips, mouth, tongue, and throat become very red. The lymph nodes in the neck may be swollen, as well as the hands and feet. The hands, feet, eyes, and mucous membrane linings of the eyelids turn red. These symptoms may be accompanied by diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, joint pain, and irritability. As the fever subsides, there is a characteristic peeling of the skin from the fingers and toes. The symptoms associated with Kawasaki disease may last for two weeks up to three months.
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Treatment and Therapy (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Kawasaki disease should be treated as soon as it is diagnosed. A variety of prescribed medications may be used. Aspirin can reduce the fever, ease joint pain, and relieve the rash. Gamma globulin, purified antibodies found in blood, is administered intravenously to help fight infection and reduce the risk of the development of coronary artery abnormalities or damage to the heart muscle. If the disease is treated within ten days of its onset, then less than 20 percent of the patients experience any heart problems.
A doctor may order an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), chest radiograph, and echocardiogram in order to monitor heart functions. If liver or gallbladder malfunction occurs, then ultrasonic imaging of those organs may be necessary.
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Perspective and Prospects (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Tomisaku Kawasaki first identified Kawasaki disease in 1967 when he reported the symptoms in fifty children in cases occurring between the years of 1961 and 1967. In children under five, the disease has become the leading cause of acquired heart disease in the United States. About three thousand children are hospitalized with Kawasaki disease annually in the United States. Epidemics occurred in Japan in 1979, 1982, and 1985. Death from heart-related problems related to Kawasaki disease occurs in less than 2 percent of the victims. Less than 2 percent of children who experience Kawasaki disease have a reoccurrence.
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For Further Information: (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Hawker, Jeremy, et al. Communicable Disease Control Handbook. 2d ed. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2006.
Icon Health. Kawasaki Disease: A Bibliography, Medical Dictionary, and Annotated Research Guide to Internet References. San Diego, Calif.: Author, 2004.
Powell, Michael, and Oliver Fischer. 101 Diseases You Don’t Want to Get. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2005.
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