4 kids admitted to Rady’s with rare wind-borne disease; more cases suspected

SAN DIEGO -- At 21 months old, Jett Roper never stops moving -- until he came down with a 102-degree fever and full-body rash on Oct. 11.

"He had bloodshot eyes and even the whole (area around his eye) was red," his mother, Janalee Roper told FOX 5.

At first, Janalee though it was the flu bug. But after multiple visits to Urgent Care and the pediatrician, Jett still didn't improve. It wasn't until she took her son to Rady Children's Hospital that she found the answer.

"The doctor said it was Kawasaki's. I was like, 'What? No, not my son,'" Janalee said.

“Kawasaki’s Disease is an inflammatory disorder that affects children. It presents fever and rash and can look like a lot of other pediatric illnesses," explained Dr. Adrianna Tremoulet, Associate Director of the Kawasaki Disease Research Center at UC San Diego.

Dr. Tremoulet said in San Diego about 80 to 100 kids are affected by the disease each year. Jett was one of four kids diagnosed in recent months.

Tremoulet says the disease usually comes in clusters. Experts believe the most recent cases may be weather-related. Rady admitted the children in a five-day span between Oct. 9 and Oct. 14, and researchers believe the reason for the sudden cluster of cases was literally blowing in the wind.

"This wind is coming over from Asia ... (and) triggers are brought along in that wind pattern," Tremoulet explained.

Kawasaki's can be deadly -- early detection is key.

"The longer they go on with having the fever without being diagnosed properly with Kawasaki Disease, the higher risk they have for having trouble with their heart," Tremoulet said.

Over time, weak spots in blood vessels can cause a bulging area called an aneurysm that can allow a blood clot to slowly build. Later in life, maybe during childhood or often in early adulthood, that clot can break loose and cause a heart attack.

Jett spent many nights in the hospital undergoing intravenous treatments.

"Finally, (with) the third treatment, his fever broke," said Janalee.

Looking back she said if Kawasaki's Disease is truly weather related, then it's likely Jett is far from alone.

"So far it's only four cases. There’s probably more in the county that got it too and they just don’t know it yet," said Janalee. “If your child has a fever, red eyes, and a rash, you should call your doctor."

Tremoulet said another sign is peeling skin on the child's hands and feet. In about two-thirds of cases, this strange symptom appears about two weeks after other symptoms end.

Kawasaki is known to affect those of Asian descent at a greater rate than the general population. Asians living in San Diego County, Burns said, are two to three times more likely to have Kawasaki, but the four cases in the most recent cluster are quite diverse. One child was Asian, one was Caucasian, one was African-American and Caucasian, and one was Latino.