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Doctors today performed an autopsy on Jett Travolta, the 16-year-old son of actors John Travolta and Kelly Preston, who died Friday. The results were not immediately released, but family attorney Michael Ossi told TMZ that the teen died after suffering a seizure and hitting his head on a bathtub or toilet seat in the family's home in the Bahamas, where they were spending the holidays.
Preston said six years ago that Jett became very ill at age two and was diagnosed with Kawasaki syndrome, a rare inflammatory condition most common in young children. She and Travolta blamed Kawasaki syndrome for what they described as Jett's developmental disabilities, according to CNN.
In 2007, restaurant manager Tim Kenny, the parent of an autistic child, charged on the entertainment news site HollywoodInterrupted.com that Jett was autistic but was not being treated for problems associated with the disorder. The Travolta family had maintained that the teen did not suffer from autism and, after the item appeared, attorney Marty Singer told the New York Post that Travolta and Preston "have [taken] and they continue to take the best possible care of their children. To suggest anything to the contrary is very hurtful to a loving family and also would be false and defamatory."
Kawaski syndrome is most common in Japan, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is 1.5 times more common in boys, a University of California, San Diego historical review of the disease notes. In the continental U.S., it affects nine to 19 in 100,000 children, 85 percent of them younger than five years old, the CDC says.
We asked Walter Molofsky, chief of pediatric neurology at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, about Kawasaki syndrome and its possible role in Jett Travolta's death. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.
What is Kawasaki syndrome?
It first presented in the late 1960s and early 1970s in Japan, with the first case studies published in 1974. It's an inflammatory, autoimmune disorder (in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue in the body), but we're not quite clear of the cause. It could be a specific reaction to a virus or some sort of infectious agent, but none has been identified. However, it has some features consistent with an infectious cause: It occurs mostly in winter and spring, it's usually among toddlers and rarely in children under three months or in adults.
What are the symptoms?
A high fever above 101 for more than five days, severe redness in the eyes, a rash on the stomach and chest, red, cracked, dry lips, swollen tongue, sore throat and swollen lymph nodes.
How often does Kawasaki syndrome cause serious health problems? Are seizures among them? What about autism and other developmental disabilities?