CDC investigates severe hepatitis in children

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

More than 90% of the children were hospitalized and 14% required liver transplants, according to the CDC. The cases under investigation occurred during the past seven months in 25 states and territories. Most of the patients have made a full recovery 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 can 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 don’t yet know if the adenovirus is the actual cause. Adenovirus is a common virus that usually causes mild cold or flu symptoms, or stomach and intestinal problems. It is not a known cause of severe hepatitis in otherwise healthy children, although it has been linked to the disease in children with weak immune systems.

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

Vaccination against Covid-19 is not the cause of the illnesses, 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 whether there is 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 have not been found in children during initial investigations, according to the CDC.

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

The CDC has also not documented a significant increase in hepatitis cases 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 problem, has documented a significant increase, she said.

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

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

The CDC issued a national health alert in late April about a cluster 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 in 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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