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 this disease, it’s known to affect children less than 28 days after receiving certain vaccines. This information suggests that certain vaccines may sometimes trigger Kawasaki disease.
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 consult your doctor as soon as you notice symptoms of Kawasaki disease, because early diagnosis and treatment are key to a quick and full recovery.
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Which Vaccines Have Been Linked to 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. Vaccines especially protect those who are most vulnerable among us: babies, children, the elderly, and people who are immunocompromised. However, in very rare cases, patients suffer injuries like Kawasaki disease as a side-effect of an otherwise safe vaccine.
Although the causes of many vaccine injuries are not clear, research suggests some patients’ bodies might over-react to their vaccines, leading to serious side-effects. Below, we have put together a list of a few of the vaccines that are linked to Kawasaki Disease.
- RotaTeq – live rotavirus vaccine. The RotaTeq safety label began listing kawasaki disease as an adverse reaction after it was contracted in five children within days of receiving the shot.
- Pediarix – a combination vaccine that protects against diptheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and polio. A study done found a slightly higher incidence of kawasaki disease after the Pediarix vaccine than other vaccines (Hua et al).
- Prevnar 13 (PCV13) – This vaccine protects against 13 different types of pneumococcal bacteria.
According to VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System), there are also a number of other vaccines that have reports of Kawaski disease being contracted.
What are the Symptoms of Kawasaki Disease?
It is important to know not all children who get Kawasaki disease will experience every symptom. So if you or your child experience any of the following symptoms less than 28 days after receiving a vaccine, even if it is only one or two symptoms, it is possible that the vaccine triggered Kawasaki Disease.
- 5+ days of fever
- Rash and/or peeling skin
- Redness in eyes
- Chapped or dry lips
- Swollen tongue with white coating and large red bumps (also called “strawberry tongue”)
- Sore/irritated throat
- Swollen hands and feet with purplish-reddish color
- Swollen lymph nodes (or neck)
- Joint pain
- Abdominal Pain
If these symptoms are present, you should contact a doctor immediately. Early treatment usually guarantees a full recovery in just a matter of days. However, if left untreated, there is 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.
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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)
- Heart valve failure
- Heart attack
- Internal bleeding
In order to avoid any of these devastating complications, early diagnosis and treatment is essential. If your child experiences any symptoms of Kawasaki disease within 28 days of receiving a vaccine, you should contact your doctor immediately.
What Causes Kawasaki Disease and Is It Curable?
Experts are not sure what causes Kawasaki Disease. As mentioned above, the fact that many cases happen in close proximity to vaccines lead to research on the link between vaccines and Kawasaki disease.
Research in other areas of interest relating to Kawasaki disease show links risk factors. For example, Kawasaki disease appears most often in the late winter or early spring. Additionally, there are certain risk factors that make people more likely to develop Kawasaki disease. Groups that are at a higher risk of contracting Kawasaki disease include:
- Children under 5 years of age
- Children of Asian or Pacific Island descent (such as Japanese or Korean)
Yes, Kawasaki disease is curable. It 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.
After treatment, you or your child will have to go through follow-up exams to make sure heart damage did not occur due to the disease. These follow-ups are typically resolved within two months if no heart damage is detected. Finally, some common vaccines, like the chickenpox and MMR vaccine, should not be administered for at least 11 months after a case of Kawasaki Disease.
Filing In the NVICP
What to do if you or your child has suffered from Kawasaki disease less than 28 days after a vaccine:
In addition to seeking medical attention as soon as possible, you should also contact a lawyer who is experienced in representing victims in the Federal Vaccine Court, as you may be eligible for compensation.
Filing a vaccine injury claim is very complex. However, there are no legal costs for an injured patient represented by Maglio, Christopher and Toale, P.A. Once your case is complete, our Law Firm then asks the Court for reimbursement of the fees and costs incurred while representing you. This reimbursement is separate from any money that you are awarded by the Federal Vaccine Court. You never have to share ANY portion of your money for damages with our law firm.
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A post-immunisation risk period when Kawasaki disease onset might be associated with vaccination was defined as 28 days
Hua et al: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19755926