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Tomisaku Kawasaki (1925–2020), pediatrician who identified Kawasaki disease

by Linnea Crowther

Tomisaku Kawasaki was a Japanese pediatrician who was the first to identify the inflammatory syndrome in children that became known as Kawasaki disease.

Discovery of a new disease

When Kawasaki began seeing young children with baffling symptoms in 1961, there was nothing in the medical literature for him to turn to. The children, typically under five years old, had high fevers and rashes, with a characteristic bright red tongue. Kawasaki saw dozens of similar cases in the following years, publishing his findings on the syndrome in Japanese and English-speaking journals. Kawasaki disease is now better understood than it was in the 1960s. There are treatments that can lessen its effects, though it can still cause serious complications and, occasionally, death. Kawasaki disease has been back in the news recently as some U.S. children have experienced COVID-19 complications that seem similar to it, though new research suggests that those complications appear not to be caused by or related to Kawasaki disease.

Kawasaki on meeting children who survived the disease

“Every time I experience such a good prognosis, it makes me very happy.” —from a 2005 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times

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What people said about him

Full obituary: The Washington Post

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