Child hepatitis cases surge to 11 in US and 169 worldwide

Child hepatitis cases surge to 11 in US and 169

Nearly a dozen children have contracted acute hepatitis in the US and 169 in Europe, with the mysterious virus outbreak leaving at least one young patient dead and 17 others in need of liver transplants, health officials said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Saturday that 12 countries have reported cases of acute hepatitis among children, 114 of them in the UK.

Cases of potentially deadly liver inflammation have also been reported in Israel, Italy, Ireland, France, Denmark, Spain and other countries.

A common cold virus known as an adenovirus has been confirmed in several of the European cases, but not all.

The patients ranged from one month to 16 years old, and 17 of them required a liver transplant.

In the US, nine cases have been reported in Alabama, and an additional two cases have been flagged in North Carolina, according local health authorities.

The WHO did not say where the fatality caused by the disease occurred.

The symptoms of many reported cases include diarrhea and vomiting, and most cases do not have fever. None of the reported cases have detected the five common hepatitis viruses.

The WHO also said adenoviruses had been detected in 74 cases, of which 20 were infected with COVID-19 and 19 both coronavirus and adenoviruses.

“While adenovirus is a possible hypothesis, investigations are ongoing for the causative agent,” WHO said in a statement.

As the vast majority of the patients had not been vaccinated against COVID-19, it is now considered that their hepatitis is not a side effect of COVID-19 vaccination.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last Thursday sent out an alert, directing doctors to be on the lookout for symptoms of pediatric hepatitis, and report any suspected cases to their state and local health authorities.

It also suggests doctors conduct adenovirus testing in young patients with symptoms of the disease, which include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, joint pain, and jaundice.

The warning followed a CDC investigation with the Alabama Department of Public Health into the initial cluster of nine cases of hepatitis of unknown origin in previously healthy children ranging in age from 1 to 6-years old.

The first such US cases were identified in October 2021 at a children’s hospital in Alabama that admitted five young patients with significant liver injury – including some with acute liver failure requiring transplants – of unknown origin. In those cases, the children tested positive for adenovirus.

The more common forms of liver disease – hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C – were ruled out.

A review of hospital records identified four additional cases, all of whom had liver injury and adenovirus infection. Lab tests found that some of these children were infected with adenovirus type 41, which causes acute infection of the digestive system. The state has not found any new cases beyond the original cluster.

“None of the children in the cluster tested positive for Covid-19 disease. None had previously reported Covid-19 disease,” said Dr. Karen Landers, a health officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, told NBC News.

In North Carolina more recently, Bailey Pennington, a spokesperson for the state Department of Health and Human Services, said two “school-aged” children developed severe hepatitis and have since recovered.

“No cause has been found and no common exposures were identified,” Pennington said in a statement.

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