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A sudden outbreak of Hepatitis in children has officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as regional authorities scrambling for answers after at least four cases were reported in Wisconsin, including one child who required a liver transplant and another who died.
Health authorities believe the cases are part of a worldwide outbreak and may be linked to an adenovirus. The World Health Organization along with the CDC reported almost 200 cases in total from the countries of Spain (13), Israel (12), Denmark (6), Ireland (5), The Netherlands (4), Italy (4), Norway (2), France (2), Romania (1) and Belgium (1), according to USA Today. An additional 114 cases are reportedly from the United Kingdom with the U.S. at 19 cases.
The cases are not believed to be related to the A,B,C or D versions of Hepatitis, but rather to an adenovirus, which means it could be any one of more than 50 known viruses in that category, including some strains that cause the common cold.
Doctors are focusing on Adenovirus type 41, which presents with fever, diarrhea and vomiting as well as breathing problems in acute cases, the outlet reported.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has not confirmed the ages nor the genders of the affected children, or the counties in which they live.
“I think this is something that’s interesting and gets my attention, but I don’t have a lot of fear and I don’t think parents should be anxious,” said Dr. Gregory DeMuri, a pediatric infectious disease doctor at UW Health. “I don’t have a sense at the moment that this is going to result in a serious threat to public health.”
In addition to the aforementioned symptoms, DeMuri cautioned parents to keep an eye out for yellowing of the eyes and skin, a.k.a. jaundice, which indicates a potentially serious problem with the liver.
Though it was not mentioned in the latest report, a children’s hospital in Alabama reported nine cases of severe liver illness, all under the age of 10, between October 2021 and February of this year. None of the children were listed as having contracted COVID-19 and while they all survived the sudden outbreak, they experienced liver failure, and two patients required liver transplants.
USA Today cited a report from the U.K Health Security Agency Monday that listed suspected causes of the pediatric Hepatitis outbreak:
- Another factor affecting some children that is rendering normal adenovirus infections more severe, or causing them to trigger an inappropriate immune response. Such a factor could be a prior infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, an effect that’s restricted to infection from the Omicron variant, or co-infection involving SARS-CoV-2 and another infection.
- A novel variant of the adenovirus.
- A drug, toxin or environmental exposure.
- A new pathogen either acting alone or in combination with another infection.
- A new variant of SARS-CoV-2.
The CDC also reported that in all, nine states have experienced a surge in suspected or confirmed cases of Hepatitis with unknown causes. So far, those states are Louisiana, Alabama, North Carolina, Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, Delaware, Wisconsin and New York, according to WPTV.
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