Awareness Saves Lives

Today is Kawasaki Disease Awareness Day


Today is Kawasaki Disease Awareness Day: Awareness saves lives says Kawasaki Disease Canada

(Kitchener, ON, January 26, 2016) — Kawasaki disease is the leading cause of acquired heart disease in Canadian children.  Kawasaki Disease Canada, formed in May 2014, launched their website with a media release one year ago on Kawasaki Disease Awareness Day.  The next day, after reading the article, a medical office assistant was able to contribute to the timely diagnosis of Kawasaki disease in a child.

“When I heard about how our efforts had helped to save a little girl’s heart, I was overwhelmed with emotion.  To receive validation that we could really make a difference, especially when we had just launched our organization, has stayed with us throughout the past year and helped to create a constant sense of urgency in our work”, said Kawasaki Disease Canada President, Elizabeth Heald.

Now thanks to being named a registered charity, Kawasaki Disease Canada can expand its efforts to increase awareness, support families and promote research into the disease.  “Of course, our ultimate goal is the eradication of the disease”, Heald said.  Plans are underway for a major fundraising campaign and the organization will soon be giving out its inaugural Student Research Award.

Every year, hundreds of children are diagnosed and treated across Canada and for most children, the story ends there. But for those who miss an early diagnosis or in cases where the treatment is not successful, Kawasaki disease can result in lifelong damage to the coronary arteries.  Lack of diagnosis led to the death of Heald’s son at the age of six.

Early diagnosis is critical in treating Kawasaki disease but the symptoms aren’t always straightforward. Typical Kawasaki disease presents as a prolonged fever lasting five days or more with at least four other symptoms, including:

  • a rash
  • bloodshot eyes
  • bright red, swollen, cracked lips
  • “strawberry tongue”
  • swollen hands and feet
  • redness of the palms and soles of the feet
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck

However, Kawasaki Disease Canada encourages parents to ask their doctor about Kawasaki disease when a prolonged fever is accompanied by any two of the above symptoms.

“In Kawasaki disease, our immune system responds to an infectious trigger or some other danger signal and somehow this response gets out of hand and leads to a battle against both the infection and also against our own blood vessels, specifically the coronary arteries,” says Dr. Rae Yeung, a Professor of Paediatrics, Immunology and Medical Science at the University of Toronto, Senior Scientist and Staff Rheumatologist at The Hospital for Sick Children, and an advisor to Kawasaki Disease Canada.  In about 25% of untreated cases and 5% of treated children, this battle will result in lifelong heart disease.  “Identifying who will get Kawasaki disease and who is at high risk for severe disease are important steps,” says Yeung.

Pediatric cardiologist Dr. Rejane Dillenburg, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at McMaster University, and advisor to Kawasaki Disease Canada, comments that “Research into the cause of Kawasaki disease is critical. If we knew more about the possible multiple factors causing Kawasaki disease, we could develop one or more diagnostic tests, we could develop more effective screening and prevention, potentially a vaccine, and eventually eradicate the disease completely.”

Kawasaki Disease Canada urges Canadians to participate in their social media campaign #ShowUsYourHeart to help spread awareness of the disease.  Visit the organization on their Facebook page (Kawasaki Disease Canada), on Twitter (KawasakiDisCan) or on their website to find out more.


About Kawasaki Disease Awareness Day

January 26 is the anniversary of the day in 1961 that Japanese doctor Tomisaku Kawasaki began to recognize a cluster of symptoms that led to the classification “Kawasaki disease”, which is also known as “KD”.

About Kawasaki Disease Canada

Kawasaki Disease Canada is a registered charity with a mandate to provide information and support to affected individuals and families; to educate the health care community and the public; and to support research into Kawasaki disease. For more information, visit