Kawasaki Disease May Stem From Wind Currents: Study

Deborah Copaken Kogan and 4-year-old son Leo, whose face is swollen, a symptom of Kawasaki Disease. His life was saved after she posted a photo of her sick son on Facebook.

The secret to Kawasaki disease, a rare disorder that can cause heart damage in children, may lie in large-scale wind currents off the Pacific Ocean, a study from the University of California-San Diego found.

“We’ve always tried to find the cause of Kawasaki disease. There was this mysterious disease and nobody knew where it came from,” study author Dr. Jane C. Burns, a professor of pediatrics and the director of the Kawasaki Disease Research Center at the university, told MSNBC. “We realized that there was a very pronounced seasonality to it. As a pediatrician and scientist, that said to me there must be something related to climate, and we sought the help of climatologists.”

In Japan, Kawasaki cases increased when the wind blew southwesterly, and decreased when winds blew from the south. Cases peaked from November through March when Central Asian air reached Japan, Hawaii and San Diego. In March, they collected air samples from research craft six miles above Japan in order to research just what's in the air, such as fungus, bacteria or viruses, that might be to blame.

Kawasaki causes fever, swelling and redness and is found in 5,000 to 6,000 U.S. children per year, and is increasing in certain parts of the world. It's often mistaken for the flu.

Ian Lipkin, a "virus hunter" from Columbia University involved in the search for the cause, has begun analyzing dust sample's he's collected. "There is a precedent for it, at least in the plant and animal world," he told The Huffington Post's Lynne Peeples. "And in science, anything is possible."

The study appeared Nov. 10 in Nature's Scientific Reports.

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