Death raises questions about disease, religion

Daytona Beach, USA - With the death of John Travolta's son, a Daytona Beach native, questions are being raised about the family's faith, Scientology, and Kawasaki disease -- a rare illness in children.

Two local doctors, who have treated children with Kawasaki disease, which Jett Travolta, 16, was diagnosed with as a toddler, said the illness affects ages 2 to 5. Symptoms include prolonged fever, rash, eye redness, swollen lymph nodes in the neck and swollen hands and feet. With medication, children can recover without serious problems though, in some, the heart is affected.

Local pediatrician Dr. Salman Ahmed sees two to three local children a year with the disease and has treated more than 50 with the disease for more than a decade.

Travolta and Kelly Preston's son, Jett Travolta, also had a history of seizures and while seizures are not linked to Kawasaki disease, local doctors say, they can be common in children. Dr. Andrea Thorpe, pediatrician at Halifax Keech Health Center, said some patients respond to medication and some do not.

Travolta and Preston, who now live in Ocala, are Scientologists and their son was born at Halifax Health Medical Center while they were living at Spruce Creek Fly-In. Family friends told a celebrity Web site that Jett was on seizure medication for several years, but stopped after it lost its effectiveness and was causing physical damage.

Here is more about Kawasaki and the Church of Scientology:

What is Kawasaki Disease?

Identified by a Japanese doctor, Tomisaku Kawasaki , the disease causes inflammation in the walls of arteries throughout the body, including the coronary arteries. The disease is not preventable, but treatable in most cases.

What causes the disease?

It is not clear how Kawasaki disease is caused, though a number of theories link the disease to bacteria, viruses or environmental chemicals or pollutants. The Associated Press reported that Preston blamed household cleaners and fertilizers and told People magazine that a detoxification program based on teachings from the Church of Scientology helped improve his health.

What is Scientology?

The study of truth, according to the Church of Scientology Web site. It is the study and handling of the spirit in relationship to itself, others and all in life. Scientologists believe man is an immortal, spiritual being whose experience extends beyond a single lifetime.

What is the Scientology view on drugs?

While the church states drugs, pollutants and other chemicals are "essentially poisons," members of the faith also believe in the use of medical drugs when physically ill and rely on advice and treatment by medical doctors, according to Spiritual healing is also part of the church's views and they do not believe in mind-altering psychiatric drugs. Preston spoke out in Tallahassee several years ago about the high number of children on psychotropic drugs, pushing for legislation requiring schools to disclose information to parents before children are evaluated for emotional, behavioral or learning disabilities.