CDC investigating severe hepatitis in children

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating 109 cases of severe hepatitis in children, including five deaths, to try to determine a cause with adenovirus infection as the main line of investigation, the agency said Friday. public health.

More than 90% of children were hospitalized and 14% required liver transplants, according to the CDC. The cases investigated have occurred in the last seven months in 25 states and territories. Most patients have fully recovered and have been discharged from the hospital, according to the CDC.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that is often caused by viral infections, but environmental factors may also play a role. It’s not uncommon in children, but it’s usually not serious.

More than half of the children had a confirmed adenovirus infection. However, CDC officials said they do not yet know if the adenovirus is the real cause. Adenovirus is a common virus that usually causes mild symptoms of a cold or flu, or stomach and intestinal problems. It is not a known cause of severe hepatitis in healthy children, although it has been linked to the disease in children with weak immune systems.

“We still don’t know what role other factors, such as environmental exposures, medications, or other infections that children may have,” Dr. Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director of infectious diseases, told reporters in a call. Friday.

Covid-19 vaccination is not the cause of the disease, Butler said. The children had an average age of two years, which means that most of them were not eligible to receive the vaccine. The CDC is still investigating any association with the Covid-19 virus, Butler said. However, the initial nine cases in Alabama of children with severe hepatitis did not have Covid.

Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E viruses were not found in children during initial investigations, according to the CDC.

The United States has not seen an increase in adenovirus infections according to available data, Butler said. However, Dr. Umesh Parashar, a CDC official, said the United States does not have a good national system for conducting virus surveillance. Butler said the CDC is working to improve its surveillance.

The CDC has also not documented a significant increase in cases of hepatitis in children or liver transplants, but that is based on preliminary data and could change, according to Butler. However, the UK, which first alerted the world to the issue, has documented a significant increase, he said.

“We know this update can be worrisome, especially for parents and guardians of young children. It’s important to remember that severe hepatitis in children is uncommon,” Butler said. Parents should take standard precautions to prevent viral infections, such as washing their hands, covering their coughs and sneezes, not touching their eyes, nose or mouth, and avoiding people who are ill. to say.

Symptoms of hepatitis include vomiting, dark urine, light-colored stools, and yellow skin. Parents should contact their healthcare provider with any questions, Butler said.

The CDC issued a nationwide health alert in late April on a backlog of severe hepatitis cases among nine children in Alabama. The World Health Organization is also closely monitoring the situation and has identified cases of severe hepatitis of unknown cause among children from at least 11 countries.

The CDC is investigating cases in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania. , Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

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