Kawasaki disease looks like a virus, but could cause permanent heart damage in children

Doctors: early detection is crucial

DENVER - Three-year-old Cooper Logan is battling a giant heart aneurysm. He is at risk of having a heart attack, all because of an illness that took too long for doctors to identify.

Cooper had Kawasaki disease, a mysterious childhood illness often mistaken for a typical childhood virus. However, without treatment, it can cause a heart attack in the tiniest of victims.

The Logan family’s search for answers started seven months ago. Cooper went to the hospital with severe stomach pain.

"They kept attributing it to a virus. They didn't know what it was. They did all sorts of blood tests and x-rays,” Cooper's mom, Meredith Logan, said.

Doctors first thought he had a virus, then appendicitis. But surgery and painkillers didn’t take away his pain or his high fever.

“He had a fever that entire time and it spiked into the 104-plus range at that time. For multiple days it was back and forth 103 to 104 degrees,” said Logan.

Also, Cooper’s parents noticed he had red, bloodshot eyes, a clue to his eventual diagnosis at Children’s Hospital Colorado when its team of Kawasaki disease specialists got involved.

"It looks like an infectious disease. It looks like it should belong to my specialty. But we don't know the cause of it," said Dr. Mary Glode, who leads the Kawasaki disease team at Children’s Hospital.

Doctors believe there is an age component and a genetic component that puts some children more at risk, but there are no definitive answers.

Finding the root source of the illness is part of Glode’s research at Children’s Hospital Colorado. She leads one of the few teams in the country that focuses on Kawasaki disease.

It’s named after Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki who first discovered the disease in Japan in the late 1960s. It is an inflammatory disease, most common in children under the age of 5. The symptoms include a rash, bloodshot eyes, red, chapped lips and red, swollen hands and feet.

The signs of inflammation show up outside the body, but doctors are more concerned about what’s happening inside the body, with key organs, like the heart, which can become inflamed as well.

Kawasaki disease is not contagious, but early detection is crucial.

According to doctors, the key to combating Kawasaki disease is IVIG therapy, intravenous immune globulin. Put simply, it is donated blood plasma, purified and put into a solution that has antibodies and immune properties that can stop inflammation.

"They should be treated within the first 10 days of the illness," pediatric cardiologist Dr. Pei-Ni Jone told 7NEWS.

Cooper wasn’t diagnosed until 12 days after the symptoms began.

Jone said his case wasn’t caught in time to prevent the damage to his heart.

All that inflammation caused what doctors consider a giant aneurysm in his right coronary artery. It looks like a huge bubble, 13 millimeters wide. A normal coronary artery looks more like a straw, three millimeters wide.

At least it was caught. Doctors say if not, it could have been deadly.

"If he wasn't treated, yes, he would eventually have clots in his heart and he would have a heart attack," said Jone.

Cooper takes a daily dose of blood thinners to prevent clotting and makes frequent trips to Children’s Hospital Colorado to monitor the aneurysm. It’s so big it will never regress back to normal, according to Jone.

Cooper will likely need heart surgery in the future.

"We still don't know long term diagnosis, how long he will live, or what will happen to him in the future. But it's OK. We can move forward and we can do the best that we can and give him the best life that he can have," said Logan.

Now, the Logan family is determined to spread awareness of Kawasaki disease and they’re putting on a fundraising race in Cooper’s honor to raise money for more research.

The Cooper 5K  will be held in Loveland on Sept. 28, 2013, one year after Cooper’s diagnosis. Register at http://www.thecooper5k.com/home.cfm.

For more information about Kawasaki Disease visit Children’s Hospital Colorado at  http://www.childrenscolorado.org/conditions/heart/conditions/kawasaki-disease.aspx or the Kawasaki Foundation  at http://www.kdfoundation.org.