Health officials investigating mysterious cases of hepatitis in children; WHO issues global alert

No cases identified in Michigan

The World Health Organization has issued a global alert to be on the lookout for mysterious cases of hepatitis occurring in children.

The CDC is currently investigating nine cases in children under age six in Alabama.

In the age of COVID, people might try to leap to the conclusion that it’s related -- but that doesn’t seem to be the situation. Some of the cases have been quite severe, particularly in the United Kingdom where six children have required liver transplants.

The World Health Organization released a notice that indicates 74 cases of hepatitis, a serious inflammation of the liver, had been identified in the U.K. None of them were from any of the hepatitis viruses we more commonly see, like Hepatitis A, B or C. The exact cause is still unknown.

A similar severe hepatitis has also been identified in Spain, with three cases, 12 cases in Israel and additional cases in Denmark and the Netherlands. There have been nine cases identified in the United States, in Alabama.

A leading theory regarding the cause is that it may be due to an adenovirus, which is typically associated with the common cold or even viral gastroenteritis with vomiting and diarrhea. Up to half of the children in the U.K. and all of the children in Alabama did test positive for adenovirus.

A recently published paper describing 13 cases in Scotland, all but one under 6 years old theorizes that the adenovirus may be “more severely impacting young children who are immunologically naïve” because of “restricted social mixing during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Other infections are being investigated including a possible, but less likely link to the virus that causes COVID -- particularly the BA.2 strain that currently dominates in most of the world.

Currently, there haven’t been any cases identified in any other part of the U.S. outside of Alabama, but health officials are on the lookout. Some signs of Hepatitis in a child include fever, nausea, vomiting, followed by a yellowing of the whites of their eyes or skin and extremely dark urine.

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About the Author:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.