Mysterious Liver Disease Suspected in Children’s Deaths May Be Connected to Global Outbreak

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

Following reports of a hepatitis outbreak in children in Europe that has baffled doctors and a hepatitis spike in the U.K. attributed to pandemic lockdowns, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating more than 100 possible cases of yet another mysterious and severe liver disease in children, including five deaths. Officials at the CDC suspect the worldwide infections may be connected to the U.S. outbreak.

In October 2021 about two dozen states reported suspected cases after the CDC alerted doctors across the country to be on the lookout for surprising cases of hepatitis. Only nine cases in Alabama have been confirmed thus far after a cluster of hepatitis cases appeared in the state causing the CDC to issue a health advisory.  Since October infections across 25 states have been reported.

Dr. Jay Butler with the CDC said that adenovirus, a group of common viruses that cause a variety of infections, was detected in 50% of the children, but was quick to say that the agency doesn’t know if an adenovirus is causing the outbreak. “We are casting a wide net to broaden our understanding,” Butler said.

There are dozens of adenoviruses, many of them associated with cold-like symptoms, fever, sore throat and pink eye. But some versions can trigger other problems, including inflammation in the stomach and intestines. Officials are exploring a link to one particular version that’s normally associated with gut inflammation.

Even though most of the infected children in the U.S. have fully recovered, 94% were initially hospitalized and eight received liver transplants, according to Butler. In order to dispel online speculation about the link between the hepatitis cases in children and the COVID-19 vaccine, Butler insisted that none of the Alabama children were vaccinated against COVID-19, therefore the jab could not be the cause.

In Europe 140 hepatitis cases have been reported in children, comprising most of the 190 cases reported worldwide. The children were listed as previously healthy and range in age between 1 month and 16 years. Adenovirus has been named as a possible link. However, Andrea Ammon, director at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm, said that “So far there is no connection between the cases and no association to travel.”

Researchers in the U.K. suspect a lack of exposure to illness during the pandemic lockdowns weakened children’s immune systems causing the spike. Other researchers agree with their peers in Europe and the U.S. in linking adenovirus to the appearance of the liver disease.

While the occurrence of hepatitis in children is rare, it has been reported in Alabama, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.  According to Dr. Karen Acker, a pediatrician at New York-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital and a professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, parents shouldn’t worry but should be cognizant of hepatitis’ main symptoms: “The main symptoms to look out for with inflammation of the liver or hepatitis are severe abdominal pain, yellow eyes, yellow skin.”

Additional symptoms include inflammation of the liver, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, light-colored stools and joint pain.

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