The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine physician who first identified Kawasaki disease outside of Japan and continues to study the mysterious, life-threatening illness hopes to start a Kawasaki Disease Foundation chapter in the state.
More than 2,000 people in Hawaiʻi have had the disease, which involves serious inflammation of blood vessels; 60–120 new cases are diagnosed here annually, most often in children under age 5, says Professor Marian Melish, an infectious disease specialist.
The cause is not known and there is no specific test or diagnosis. Unless diagnosed in the first seven days, Kawasaki disease can result in death or heart attacks during recovery and later in life.
The disease is about 16 times more common among Japanese and Koreans, but is found in all ethnic groups. Symptoms include fever lasting five or more days; a rash, often worse in the groin area; bloodshot eyes without drainage or crusting; bright red, swollen, cracked lips; “strawberry” tongue; swollen hands and feet and redness of palms and soles; and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
The first international meetings on Kawasaki disease were held in Hawaiʻi, and successful treatment—which slashed rates of heart damage—was developed in the state. Still, cases are often misdiagnosed or overlooked.
A Kawasaki Disease Foundation chapter will create awareness among the public and doctors, provide improved educational materials and support continued research, Melish says. More at www.kdfoundation.org; for information on the Hawaiʻi chapter, call Laura Bonilla at (808) 983-8873.