A surge of hepatitis from an unknown cause has killed 11 US children and has hospitalized dozens of other children, according to officials,
There have been 296 reported cases of hepatitis in 42 US jurisdictions with an unknown cause among children aged under 10 between October 1, 2021 and June 15, 2022, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nearly 90 percent of the children required hospitalization, 18 needed a liver transplant, and 11 children died, according to the report.
The report found that the average age of patients was just around two years old. Most cases were in children under five years old.
The majority of patients were Hispanic or Latino children, followed by White, non-Hispanic children, per the report.
In most cases of hepatitis, children never attended a childcare facility or school.
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"Fewer than one half (42.5 percent) of children attended a child care facility or school in the month before becoming ill, and 56.1 percent had never attended a child care facility or school," the report said.
Additionally, a third of the patients were the only child in the household under 10.
There had been no common exposures such as travel or toxicants in the cases. Covid also didn't seem to be the culprit since only 10-26 percent of patients had current or past infections.
The covid vaccine also didn't appear to be linked to the cases since only about four percent of children in the sample received it.
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The cause of the outbreak is unknown at this time. However, the strongest link, which was detected in 44.6 percent of 224 cases, was adenoviruses.
This is a group of viruses, common among children, that cause several diseases including respiratory illness and eye infections.
The adenovirus is not a known cause of hepatitis in otherwise healthy children, according to the CDC.
"The recent identification of adenovirus in specimens from several [cases] raises the question of whether a new pattern of disease is emerging in this population, or if adenovirus might be an underrecognized cause or cofactor in previously indeterminate cases of pediatric hepatitis," the CDC reported.
As many as 86.2 and 87.8 percent of the patients showed systemic and gastrointestinal signs and symptoms, respectively, which included vomiting, fatigue, and jaundice.
Child hepatitis became a global concern in April of this year.
Since October of 2021, reports have shown 920 probable cases from 33 countries worldwide, of which 45 children have required liver transplants and 18 have died, according to Newsweek.
The WHO said that the European Region accounted for half the probable cases, including 267 from the United Kingdom, while a third of the probable cases were from the United States.
The CDC said that despite the global cases, current U.S. data "do not suggest an increase in pediatric hepatitis of unknown etiology or percent positivity for adenovirus types 40/41 over baseline levels."
It is still being determined whether the cases are above expected normal levels.
In April, the CDC issued a health advisory asking U.S. clinicians to report all cases of hepatitis with unknown causes in children under 10 to public health authorities.
Dr. David Sugerman, a medical officer in the Division of Viral Diseases at the CDC and an author of the report, told NBC that acute liver failure in children is not well understood, and about 30% of cases historically have had no known cause.
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“It’s possible that adenovirus was one of the causes of those cases that wasn’t previously detected,” he said.
Look for the warning signs of hepatitis in your children. Guidance can be found on the CDC's website.
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