What is Kawasaki Disease?
Kawasaki Disease is a type of vasculitis. It is increasingly common in the UK with about 1,000 children admitted to hospital with Kawasaki Disease each year. It mainly affects young children but it can affect people of any age – and its impact can be most serious in the very young, particularly infants (babies under 12 months of age). Identified in 1967 in Japan by Dr Tomisaku Kawasaki, the cause of Kawasaki Disease is still unknown. Kawasaki Disease presents with several symptoms common to a variety of other childhood diseases and infections and is therefore often misdiagnosed. Kawasaki Disease is a serious disease which if untreated can cause coronary artery damage – and life long heart disease.
Kawasaki Disease is the leading cause of acquired heart disease in children in the UK.
Symptoms of this “Red” Disease
Kawasaki Disease has a range of symptoms including a characteristic and distinctively persistent high fever for five days or more – plus any two or more of the following symptoms – rash, bloodshot eyes, “strawberry” tongue, cracked, dry lips, redness of the fingers and toes and swollen glands in the neck. Kawasaki Disease can be present with some or all of these symptoms and symptoms often appear in series (i.e. not all at once). Kawasaki Disease in very young babies seems to have fewest symptoms – perhaps even just an unexplained fever and in ANY child with a persistent fever for five days Kawasaki Disease should be considered. Not every child with a persistent fever will have Kawasaki Disease, but early diagnosis and early treatment for Kawasaki Disease is critical as it reduced the risk of lifelong heart damage.
We need parents and doctors to THINK Kawasaki Disease in any child with unexplained persistent fever. Kawasaki Disease is a serious illness. It can cause coronary artery damage – damage to the blood vessels in the heart, and can lead to acquired heart disease in children.
Professor R Tulloh, Professor of Congenital Cardiology, Bristol Heart Institute and Societi Trustee
Early Treatment is Key
Children affected by Kawasaki Disease have much improved chances of a good recovery with timely diagnosis and the correct treatment. Studies show that children treated early have a lower risk of serious heart damage than those treated later. Doctors should aim to diagnose and treat children as soon as possible – ideally before or at five days of fever. The risk of serious heart damage increases proportionately with increasing delay.
Kawasaki Disease is increasingly common. Once thought of as a rare disease, this now outdated idea which is wrongly held on to by some, leads to delayed diagnosis and with this, increased risk of serious heart damage for children. In the ten years to 2015, hospital admissions for Kawasaki Disease in England increased fourfold – and across the globe cases are doubling every ten years. This is why it is the leading cause of acquired heart disease in UK children.
We are working to raise awareness so that parents know to THINK Kawasaki Disease, and to make sure that doctors EXPECT to see Kawasaki Disease and are READY to treat it.