Kawasaki Disease: Scientists Look To Wind For Answers

A Windborne Disease?

Scientists researching Kawasaki Disease, a mysterious ailment that can affect young children, are looking to the wind for answers.

In an April 4 article published in Nature, writer Jennifer Frazer spoke with researchers who suggest the cause of Kawasaki disease, a disease that can strike children younger than 5, is making its way across the globe through air currents originating in central Asia.

The disease can cause inflammation of blood vessels in the arteries, which can lead to aneurysms. And in some cases, the aneurysms can lead to heart attacks.

Kawasaki disease was first documented in the 1960s by a Japanese scientist who kept detailed notes about the ailment's symptoms, which included skin rashes, "strawberry tongue," bloodshot eyes and a persistent, high fever, according to National Center for Biotechnology Information and U.S. National Library of Medicine.

If researchers are correct in their hypotheses, Kawasaki will be the first virus to span oceans through natural means, Nature reports. Their findings were first detailed in the November issue of Nature's Scientific Reports journal.

Last year, Dr. Jane C. Burns, a lead researcher on the study explained a possible link between wind patterns and outbreaks seen in Japan, San Diego and Hawaii during the winter and summer months.

However, she said it all depends on the direction of the wind.

"If the winds blow in one direction, there is Kawasaki; if winds blow in the other, there is no Kawasaki. It's very dramatic,"Burns, a professor of pediatrics and director of the Kawasaki Disease Research Center at the University of California, San Diego, told HuffPost in November.

But some scientists still warns the evidence might be circumstantial -- "correlation is not causation," according to Nature.

A March 2012 report published by the Japan Times indicates there has been an increase in cases of Kawasaki disease affecting children under age 4 in the past years. In 2010, there were 12,755 documented cases in Japan, the highest level reported since two outbreaks in the 1980s.

Still, a breakthrough in determining the cause of Kawasaki might help scientists treat virus at an earlier stage.

Recognizing symptoms of the disease has saved the lives of children who might have otherwise met another fate.

In July 2011, writer and mother Deborah Copaken Kogan's son was diagnosed and treated for Kawaski, Slate reports.

The mother had posted pictures of her son on Facebook without much thought, but several friends recognized Leo's symptoms and urged her to take the boy to a hospital.

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