At least three cases of unusual and severe hepatitis in children have been identified in a new state: Illinois. Eleven cases of liver disease, under investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, have already been reported in Alabama (nine cases) and North Carolina (two cases).
Illinois children are all under 10 years old. One of them had to undergo a liver transplant.
At the last WHO count, there were 169 cases of severe hepatitis in 12 countries among children 1 month to 16 years old. Seventeen required liver transplants and at least one died.
The cases are unusual because viruses that typically cause hepatitis, i.e. inflammation of the liver, have been ruled out. Health officials in the US and UK, where most of the global cases have been identified, are investigating adenovirus as a possible cause, but the link is far from confirmed.
Adenoviruses are common and cause respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms. They usually do not cause hepatitis in healthy children.
A recent report from health officials in the UK said 75% of children with severe hepatitis who were tested for adenovirus tested positive. Additionally, adenovirus cases in the country plummeted during the pandemic, but recently exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Still, it’s unclear exactly how adenovirus could lead to severe hepatitis, so health officials are investigating a few possible causes, such as a new strain of adenovirus, increased susceptibility of children due to reduced exposure to the outside world during the pandemic, or an undiscovered virus. co-infection or toxin.
The Illinois cases were also “potentially linked to an adenovirus strain,” according to the state’s public health department. Two have been identified in suburban Chicago and one in western Illinois.
One of the suburban Chicago patients was a 4-year-old boy who tested positive for adenovirus at a local hospital, according to NBC Chicago.
“We followed him in the hospital for three or four days and actually had a liver biopsy to see how bad the injury was on his liver and it was pretty bad,” said Dr Vincent Biank , a pediatric gastroenterologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., told NBC Chicago.
The child did not need a liver transplant and was discharged last week.
According to the WHO, the “vast majority” of affected children have not received the COVID-19 vaccine, so the WHO does not believe this has anything to do with side effects from the vaccine.