US CDC investigating wave of hepatitis cases in kids
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that it’s looking into 109 cases of severe hepatitis in young children, and cannot yet explain the outbreak. The cases, 90% of which required hospitalization and five of which were fatal, occurred in 25 US states, while similar outbreaks have been reported in the UK and Europe.
Half of the children affected also had adenovirus infections, although the CDC’s deputy director for infectious diseases, Jay Butler, told reporters on Thursday that the agency could not pin down the adenovirus as the actual cause. Adenoviruses typically cause mild cold- or flu-like symptoms, but rarely cause hepatitis in children, except in some cases where the child’s immune system is already compromised.
“We also don’t know yet what role other factors may play, such as environmental exposures, medications, or other infections that the children might have,” Butler continued, claiming that Covid-19 vaccination did not cause the illnesses, as with a median age of two years old, most of the kids affected were too young to have had the jab.
14% of the children affected needed liver transplants. Five succumbed to the disease and died.
While the rash of hepatitis cases has affected kids in 25 US states, the first sign of something amiss came from Alabama last month, when the CDC discovered a cluster of nine cases of hepatitis in children aged between one and six years old. The children, who suffered from vomiting, diarrhea, and upper respiratory symptoms, had fallen ill between October 2021 and February 2022.
Across the Atlantic, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) announced last month that it was tracking cases of “severe acute hepatitis” in the UK, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain. As in the US, those affected were young, and the ECDC declared that “no link to the Covid-19 vaccine was identified.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has observed cases in the above countries, as well as Spain, Israel, Italy, Norway, France, Romania and Belgium, counting “at least 169 cases” as of April 23. Worldwide, patients range in age from one month to 16 years, and 10% have required liver transplants, the WHO noted.
Furthermore, no common patterns regarding “food, drink and personal habits” were observed among infected children.
Neither the CDC nor the WHO has recommended any public health actions in response to the outbreaks.
“We know this update may be of concern, especially to parents and guardians of young children. It’s important to remember that severe hepatitis in children is rare,” Butler told reporters on Thursday, advising parents to ensure their children regularly wash their hands and avoid sick people.
The WHO’s “priority is to determine the cause of these cases to further refine control and prevention actions,” the organization said.