Background: Kawasaki disease (KD) is the most common cause of acquired heart disease in children in the United States. By monitoring trends in patient numbers and demographics during a 5-year period, we were able to explore the relationship between climate, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and susceptibility to KD.
Methods: We conducted active surveillance for all patients hospitalized with KD in San Diego County from 1994 through 1998. Data on seasonal variation in monthly rainfall and temperature were obtained from the US Meteorological Service. Patient sex, age, date of admission and self-reported ethnicity were identified from patient medical records. Socioeconomic status was assessed on the basis of insurance status among patients hospitalized at a single institution.
Results: During the 5-year period there were 169 cases of KD in San Diego County. The overall annual incidence of KD in children < 5 years of age ranged from 8.0 to 15.4/100 000. KD incidence was inversely associated with average monthly temperature (r = -0.47, P < 0.001) and positively associated with average monthly precipitation (r = -0.52, P < 0.001). Asian/Pacific Islanders < 5 years of age were 2.7 times as likely and Hispanics were one-third as likely to be hospitalized for KD than children from all other ethnic groups combined. Children with private or military insurance in all ethnic groups were more likely to have a diagnosis of KD than children with government assistance or no insurance. After controlling for insurance status, only Asian/Pacific Islanders remained at increased risk (rate ratio, 2.14) for KD relative to all other ethnic groups combined.
Conclusion: KD is a common childhood vasculitis of unknown etiology. The skewed ethnic distribution and seasonality are consistent with the hypothesis that KD is an infectious disease that is influenced by environmental and genetic factors.