A mysterious wind-borne disease is spreading rapidly throughout California, causing heart failure in children, health officials have warned.
Since the beginning of 2019, 16 kids have been diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.
Dailymail.co.uk reports: Researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine told the agency that twice as many children have been diagnosed compared with previous years.
Experts say the condition can be weather-related and that the triggers of the disease have come over to the US via wind from Asia.
Although scientists are not sure what causes the disease, past studies have shown that climate and environmental patterns may play a role.
‘We want community health care providers to have increased vigilance for Kawasaki disease cases during these periods of wet, cool weather,’ said Dr Jane Burns, a pediatrician at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and director of the Kawasaki Disease Research Center said in a statement.
‘The climate patterns that are associated with increased numbers of children diagnosed have occurred more frequently here so far this year.’
Kawasaki disease is a condition that causes inflammation in the walls of the blood vessels and affects mostly children under five years old.
The inflammation can weaken or damage the coronary arteries, which supply the heart with blood.
This can lead to aneurysms, heart attacks or heart failure, which is why Kawasaki disease is known as one of the leading causes of heart disease in children, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
Symptoms include a fever, a rash, swollen hands and feet, redness in the whites of the eyes and swollen lymph glands in the throat.
Treatment usually comes in the form of aspirin for the fever and rash and intravenous immunoglobulin therapy – a treatment made from donated blood – to reduce the risk of coronary artery abnormalities from developing.
‘Kawasaki disease is not an illness many physicians have diagnosed, and it can initially be confused with other more common illnesses,’ said county public health officer Dr Wilma Wooten in a press release.
‘We are alerting health professionals and parents today to raise awareness of the increased Kawasaki disease activity currently in our community.’
Incidence of Kawasaki disease is highest in Japan and, in the US, it most frequently occurs in children of Asian-American descent, according to the AHA.
The San Diego Health and Human Services Agency says cases have been rising in the county over the last 30 years.
In the 1990s, 10 in 100,000 children in San Diego under five years old were affected by the disease.
However, between 2006 and 2015, the incidence rose to 25.5 in 100,000 children under age five.