County warns of spike in cases of rare disease affecting kids

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SAN DIEGO -- San Diego County issued a warning to parents and doctors Thursday about an increase in cases of a rare, wind-borne illness called Kawasaki disease.

Sixteen children in San Diego have been diagnosed since the beginning of 2019, according to health officials, and more cases may crop up through March due to wet, cool weather.

Symptoms of the disease include "fever, rash, swelling of the hands and feet, bloodshot eyes, swollen lymph glands in the neck, and red mouth, lips and throat," according to the county. "Peeling of the fingers and toes occurs in many patients after the fever has subsided."

If the disease goes untreated, about a quarter of children with Kawasaki's develop coronary artery aneurysms -- "balloon-like bulges of heart vessels -- that could result in heart attacks, heart failure or sudden death, according to officials.

“Kawasaki disease is not an illness many physicians have diagnosed, and it can initially be confused with other more common illnesses,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer. “We are alerting health professionals and parents today to raise awareness."

The disease's causes are unknown, but researchers have studied climate patterns and believe weather triggers may play a role. Research also indicates that Asians and Pacific Islanders may have an increased risk of contracting the disease.

Last October, FOX 5 met a family who were shocked when their son came down with the rare illness.

For more information about the disease, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Kawasaki disease website or the Kawasaki Disease Research Center website.

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