Kawasaki Disease and Vaccines

What is Kawasaki Disease?

Kawasaki disease causes swelling in certain arteries throughout the body, and in severe cases, also affects the heart.

This rare but curable illness most often occurs in children under 5 years old and begins by affecting the skin, mouth, and lymph nodes.  For this reason, it is sometimes called “mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome.”

More severe cases of Kawasaki disease damage the coronary arteries, which carry blood to the heart, and sometimes result in death.  

Although doctors do not know what causes Kawasaki disease, it’s known to affect children less than 28 days after receiving certain vaccines. 

How is Kawasaki Disease Diagnosed?

There is no specific test to diagnose Kawasaki Disease.  Instead, it’s diagnosed by ruling out other potential diseases through blood tests, urine tests, physical examinations, and other check-ups. 

You should talk to your doctor as soon as you notice symptoms of Kawasaki disease because early diagnosis and treatment are key to a quick and full recovery.

What are the Symptoms of Kawasaki Disease?

It is important to know that not all children who get Kawasaki Disease will experience every symptom. Here are the most common symptoms:

  • 5 or More Days of Fever
  • Rash and/or Peeling Skin
  • Redness in Eyes
  • Chapped or Dry Lips
  • Swollen Tongue with White Coating and Large Red Bumps (aka “Strawberry Tongue”)
  • Sore/Irritated Throat
  • Swollen Hands and Feet with Purplish-Reddish Color
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes (or Neck)
  • Joint Pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal Pain

If these symptoms are present, you should contact a doctor immediately.  Early treatment usually means a full recovery in a matter of days.  However, if left untreated, there is a heightened risk for death or serious heart complications. 

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, without treatment, one in five children will develop heart problems. In contrast, only one in 50 children develop heart complications if they receive treatment within 10 days of the onset of the illness.

What Complications Can Kawasaki Disease Cause?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Kawasaki disease is a leading cause of acquired heart disease in children.” If left untreated for too long, very serious complications occur. In the most severe cases, Kawasaki disease is fatal. Some of the most severe complications that arise from untreated Kawasaki disease are:

  • Swelling of the coronary arteries, which transport blood to the heart
  • Swelling of the heart (myocarditis)
  • Aneurysm
  • Heart valve failure
  • Heart attack
  • Internal bleeding

Early diagnosis and treatment are essential.

What Causes Kawasaki Disease?

Experts are not sure what causes the disease. Although, the fact that some cases happen in close proximity to vaccines has led to research on the link between vaccines and Kawasaki disease.

Other factors researchers have noticed are that it appears most often in the late winter or early spring. Additionally, there are certain risk factors that make people more likely to contract Kawasaki Disease. These groups are:

  • Boys
  • Children Under 5 Years of Age

Is Kawasaki Disease Treatable?

Yes, Kawasaki Disease is treated with a medicine called intravenous immunoglobulin, or IVIG. IVIG for Kawasaki Disease is made of blood from donors mixed with large doses of aspirin. Because the treatment is administered through an IV, it typically requires a hospital stay.

If the disease is caught early, IVIG treatment can typically resolve Kawasaki Disease in a few days, but it may take your child a few days or weeks after treatment to fully recover from all symptoms.

Vaccines and Kawasaki Disease

For the most part, vaccines are completely safe procedures that prevent communities from suffering outbreaks of deadly diseases like tuberculosis, measles, and yellow fever.  However, in very rare cases, patients may have reactions like Kawasaki disease that could be a side-effect of an otherwise safe vaccine.

In the past, mctlaw has represented children with Kawasaki Disease in the NVICP. However, over the last few years, these cases are more and more difficult to prove in the Vaccine Court. But our attorneys continue to review Kawasaki Disease cases in the rare chance we could help.

Sources

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