02/06/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Kawasaki Syndrome: The Warning Signs

The Internet is awash with rumors over the cause of the tragic death of actor John Travolta's 16-year-old son, Jett, who died January 2. I don't want to rehash the arguments over whether Travolta and his wife's belief in Scientology influenced the family's healthcare decisions. But amidst all the to-and-fro stands a startling bit of medical history: Jett, who had chronic health problems including seizures, had been seriously ill with Kawasaki syndrome as a toddler.

Something else for parents to worry about? Doctors who treat children with Kawasaki say it's highly unlikely that the mysterious ailment had anything to do with the teenager's death, because the heart damage typical of the disease happens soon after symptoms start. A 2007 Taiwanese study found that 43 percent of children who were diagnosed 10 days or more after the fever started suffered coronary artery problems, compared with 14 percent of children diagnosed earlier.

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