Public health officials are reporting that Southern California is seeing a a spike in the number of cases of a wind-borne disease that inflames blood vessels and can cause heart failure.

Since the start of the year, 16 kids have been diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.

Researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine told the agency that twice as many children have been diagnosed compared with previous years.

Experts say the condition can be weather-related and that the triggers of the disease have come over to the US via wind from Asia.

The illness is also referred to Kawasaki Syndrome, which was first detected in Japan in the 1960s and then in Hawaii in the 1970s. It primarily affects children younger than 5. Public health officials are warning the region’s physicians about the uptick because symptoms mimic those of other conditions.

Symptoms include fever, rash, swelling of the hands and feet, bloodshot eyes, swollen lymph glands in the neck, and red mouth, lips and throat. Peeling of the fingers and toes occurs in many patients after the fever has subsided, County News Center reported.

The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency issued a health advisory to area doctors Thursday.

“Kawasaki disease is not an illness many physicians have diagnosed, and it can initially be confused with other more common illnesses,” said Wilma Wooten, MD, MPH, county public health officer. “We are alerting health professionals and parents today to raise awareness of the increased Kawasaki disease activity currently in our community.”

The HHSA said, “Untreated, roughly one-quarter of children with Kawasaki disease develop coronary artery aneurysms balloon-like bulges of heart vessels that may ultimately result in heart attacks, congestive heart failure or sudden death.” Treatment usually comes in the form of aspirin for the fever and rash and intravenous immunoglobulin therapy to reduce the risk of coronary artery abnormalities from developing.

This development is troubling. Kawasaki Disease is a leading cause of acquired heart disease in the United States.

Serious complications include coronary artery dilatations and aneurysms. The standard treatment, intravenous immunoglobulin and aspirin, substantially decreases the development of these coronary artery abnormalities.

KD occurs worldwide, with the highest incidence in Japan, and it most often affects boys and younger children. KD may have a winter-spring seasonality, and community-wide outbreaks have been reported occasionally. In the continental United States, population-based and hospitalization studies estimate an incidence of KD ranging from 9 to 19 per 100,000 children under 5 years of age.

Though the numbers are not large, there has been a steady rise in the number of cases.

Although Kawasaki disease is estimated to affect fewer than 6,000 children in the U.S. each year, cases appear to be rising in San Diego County over time. While the average incidence per 100,000 children less than 5 years of age residing in San Diego County was approximately 10 for the decade of the 1990s, the estimate from 2006 to 2015 was 25.5.

 
 
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