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October 3, 1980

The inscrutable Kawasaki disease

JAMA. 1980;244(14):1542. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310140008004

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Although medical investigators continue to study mucocutaneous lymph node (Kawasaki) disease from virtually every viewpoint, the cause and pathogenesis of this acute, sometimes fatal, febrile illness remain elusive.

The disorder, now considered a syndrome, usually affects children younger than 5 years, although some cases now are being reported among adults (see page 1604, this issue). The death rate variously is reported to be between 0.5% and 2.8% or higher, and cardiovascular complications are not infrequent.

Since Tomisaku Kawasaki, MD, Tokyo Red Cross Medical Center, reported the first cases in 1967, more than 20,000 cases have been reported in Japan. The disorder began to be recognized in the United States in 1974, and more than 650 cases have been recorded in this country since then.

In fact, a cluster of 57 cases (mean age of the patients, 2.9 years), the largest so far in the United States, just occurred in Massachusetts.