Deadly hepatitis strain spreads across US with five children dead amid 109 cases
US health officials say they are investigating 109 cases of severe hepatitis of unknown origin in children, including five reported deaths.
The cases have been identified in 25 states and territories in the past seven months, said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday.
Watch the video above to learn more about the mysterious outbreak
He said about half of the 109 children diagnosed with hepatitis were also infected with a type of adenovirus that causes the common cold. However, the agency is still investigating the exact cause of the illness.
The update follows studies in the United States and several European countries into clusters of hepatitis in young children.
The CDC said it is working with European counterparts to understand the root cause of the infections that can cause liver damage and lead to liver failure.
World Health Organization officials said this week they had reports of nearly 300 possible cases in 20 countries.
US health officials say they are investigating 109 cases of severe hepatitis of unknown origin in children, including five reported deaths. File image. Credit: Svetlana Gustova/EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm
Ninety-four percent of children in the US were hospitalized, and eight received a liver transplant.
“It’s still a very rare occurrence,” Butler said.
“A majority of these cases have recovered and fully recovered.”
The mystery dates back to November when health officials in Alabama began investigating the first of nine cases of severe childhood hepatitis in that state.
None tested positive for the viruses that commonly cause hepatitis.
However, the testing was positive for adenovirus.
Butler said none of the children in Alabama had been vaccinated against COVID-19.
That has been ruled out as a possible cause, “and we hope this information helps clarify some online speculations”.
Symptoms of hepatitis or inflammation of the liver include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, joint pain, and jaundice.
Illness creeps closer
It’s because three children died of acute hepatitis in Indonesia in April, the country’s health ministry said, as the mysterious outbreak of severe hepatitis continues to spread worldwide.
The ministry said in a statement on Monday that the children were admitted to the hospital in Jakarta with serious symptoms.
They urged parents to seek medical attention for children showing the symptoms immediately.
The health agency added that surveillance of the disease would increase nationwide.
Deadly hepatitis outbreak moves closer to Australia as children die in Indonesia.
Scientists are still in the dark about the origin of the mysterious species.
This makes it difficult to determine how it differs from what is already known about hepatitis, said the chair of the Australian Center for Hepatitis Virology, Dr. Thomas Tu.
The World Health Organization said acute cases of hepatitis of unknown origin had been reported as of April 21 in the UK, US, Spain, Israel, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, Italy, Norway, France, Romania, and Belgium.
As for whether the outbreak will reach Australian shores, Tu says it’s too early to tell.
“At this stage, we don’t know, so I don’t think it’s time to panic,” he told 7NEWS.com.au.
While there are many unknowns, scientists have some clues, Tu said.
“Adenovirus is one of the main hypotheses being pursued,” he said.
“This is a fairly common virus already out there and circulating, usually accompanied by diarrhea. Other adenoviruses are associated with the common cold.”
The adenovirus can infect various tissues in the body, including the liver, Tu said.
While adenovirus is one of the main leads, Tu says it’s based only on an association, and “the real link hasn’t been narrowed down.”
Mother’s warning signs after her ‘healthy’ toddler was hospitalized with hepatitis
Severe hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, is rare in otherwise healthy children.
Tu, a senior scientist at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research, said how it spreads depends on the type of underlying virus that caused the outbreak.
“A, B, C, D, E — they’re completely different viruses,” he told 7NEWS.com.au.
“What connects them is that they affect the liver.”
But as the mystery continues to obscure what causes this outbreak among children, little is known about how it is transmitted.
Tu says the spread “depends on the underlying virus, whether it is already a virus.”
– With AP