CDC seeks help from state, local health officials in hepatitis investigation

The CDC and other public health agencies are investigating a cluster of hepatitis illnesses among children in 25 states. The outbreak is thought to be part of an international situation that has seen more than 200 children sickened.

In the United States there have been 109 patients identified since October 2021, according to CDC Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases Dr. Jay Butler. During a conference call with media on Friday afternoon he said 90 percent of the children were hospitalized and 14 required liver transplants. Five children have died. All of the children have been younger than 10 years old, with the average age being 2 years old.

A specific cause has not been identified and Butler stressed that the numbers of sick children are not out of line with an average year. The deputy director did not say whether the source could be foodborne, but it is doubtful.

None of the affected children had received COVID vaccines and none were infected with coronavirus at the time they were infected with hepatitis, Butler said in an attempt to squelch social media rumors.

Half of the sick children in the United States have been infected with adenovirus 41, which is part of a group of viruses known for causing respiratory symptoms. Butler said public health officials are trying to figure out if there is a link between the hepatitis infections and the adenovirus infections, but there is no conclusive information yet. All of the sick children were otherwise healthy before becoming sick with hepatitis.

In the meantime, the CDC has sent an alert to state and county health agencies seeking help in identifying patients with hepatitis infections of unknown origin. 

The outbreak stretches across 25 states from all regions of the United States from Florida to Washington and from Minnesota to Alabama.

The CDC has asked health care providers to watch for children with hepatitis symptoms and adenovirus symptoms and test for them. The federal agency wants local cases to be reported so that additional outbreak investigations can be done.

Parents and caregivers who notice symptoms of hepatitis in there children are urged to take them to a doctor for diagnosis. Symptoms include:

Yellow skin or eyes
Not wanting to eat
Upset stomach
Throwing up
Stomach pain
Fever
Dark urine or light-colored stools
Diarrhea
Joint pain
Feeling tired

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