Mystery hepatitis in children still on the rise: what we know about possible causes and prevention

Mystery hepatitis in children still on the rise: what we know about possible causes and prevention
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The outbreak of mysterious cases of hepatitis in children, first identified in April, is still ongoing. And investigators are now monitoring hundreds of cases across the United States and around the world.

Health officials in the United States are investigating 274 potential cases of hepatitis in children, according to new data from the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention. The cases are present in 39 states and are all of unknown origin, the CDC said, meaning the cause of the illness is unclear. However, the agency also noted that these are not all confirmed cases and are not necessarily recent cases.

Globally, the World Health Organization has received reports of more than 700 probable cases of pediatric hepatitis from 34 countries, and is investigating another 112 possible cases, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO, in a press release. press conference Wednesday. Of those patients, at least 38 required liver transplants and 10 died, he said.

RELATED: Their 4 year old child almost died of a mysterious hepatitis. Here’s what they want you to know

What causes severe hepatitis in children?

There are five hepatitis viruses that commonly cause the disease, which is inflammation of the liver, but in all cases included in this survey, the usual causes of hepatitis have been ruled out.

While it’s normal for some cases of hepatitis to not have a clear cause, this particular event is “rare but serious.” the CDC said. The WHO also noted on Wednesday that it “receives reports of unexplained hepatitis in children every year, but a few countries have reported that the rates they are seeing are higher than expected.”

Experts are still working to understand what causes cases of severe hepatitis in children.

In a first report Regarding a cluster of pediatric hepatitis cases in Alabama, the CDC noted that all nine children tested positive for adenovirus, a common type of virus that can cause cold-like symptoms. Adenovirus has not previously been shown to cause hepatitis in healthy children, but researchers believe it may play a role in recent cases.

“Adenovirus 41 is the prime suspect but has not yet been proven to cause this syndrome,” said Dr. David Hill, a pediatrician from Wayne County, North Carolina and official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. TODAY before. “The two could be linked, or the cause of these cases could be something entirely new or an evolving type of infection that we need to identify as soon as possible.”

The CDC now recommends doctors consider testing children for adenovirus if they have hepatitis with no known cause.

RELATED: More mysterious hepatitis cases in children under investigation as CDC examines COVID link

Health officials have said neither the virus that causes COVID-19 nor COVID-19 vaccines appear to be a factor in the hepatitis outbreak. But some experts have speculated that a previous COVID-19 infection could make some children more susceptible to hepatitis.

Hepatitis symptoms to watch out for

Hepatitis is a type of inflammation that affects the liver, usually due to a viral infection. Inflammation can cause liver damage, and treatment for some cases of this outbreak has required liver transplantation.

The CDC said parents should be on the lookout for jaundice in particular, which looks like a yellowing of the skin. Additionally, parents should contact their child’s pediatrician if they notice any of these symptoms:

  • Fever

  • Loss of appetite

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Abdominal pain

  • Articular pain

  • Light colored stools

  • Dark colored urine

You can help keep your family safe by keeping up to date with your vaccinations, practicing good hand hygiene, covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding contact with sick people, and not touching noses. , eyes or mouth.

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