Wisconsin health authorities are investigating four cases of childhood hepatitis, including one young patient who died after suffering severe liver damage – potentially marking the first fatality related to the illness in the US.
The state was the fourth to report a mysterious outbreak of the disease, following Alabama, North Carolina and Illinois.
In a health alert, state health authorities asked local doctors to be on the lookout for symptoms of the rare liver disease in children and to report them to the agency.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Saturday that a dozen countries have reported 169 cases of acute hepatitis among children, 114 of them in the UK.
Patients ranged from one month to 16 years old, and more common forms of liver disease – hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C – were ruled out, the health organization said.
A more common cold virus known as adenovirus had been detected in 74 cases, of which 20 patients were also infected with COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week sent out an alert to doctors nationwide, directing them to report any suspected cases of pediatric hepatitis.
It also suggested that 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.
A review of hospital records later 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.
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.
The Illinois Department of Public Health announced this week that three potential cases of liver inflammation have been detected in the state, including two in suburban Chicago, according to CBS News. One of the patients — all children’s under the age of 10 — required a liver transplant.
According to health officials, the cases were possibly linked to a strain of adenovirus.