Within the past several months, medical professionals around the world have witnessed a peculiar uptick in cases of acute viral hepatitis among children who were previously healthy. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported there are 650 “probable cases” worldwide—most of which emerged between April 5 and May 26 of 2022. Although the reach of this unusual condition spans 33 countries, most cases are in the United Kingdom and the United States.
As of late May 2022, these “rare, but serious” cases of severe acute viral hepatitis infection have been observed in children across 38 U.S. states and territories. For more information about both the domestic and global surveillance of acute hepatitis of unknown etiology in children, explore these resources from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization.
In the U.S., cases of acute viral hepatitis with unknown causes were first discovered in Alabama. In the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) entitled, “Acute Hepatitis and Adenovirus Infection Among Children — Alabama, October 2021–February 2022,” authors explain that “a total of nine patients with hepatitis of unknown etiology and concomitant adenovirus infection” were found. At the time of the MMWR’s publication, 2 of these pediatric patients received liver transplants and 3 experienced liver failure. Laboratory testing has revealed the presence of Adenovirus 41 in many of these cases and scientists are actively investigating the potential relationship between Adenovirus and this pediatric hepatitis outbreak. Adenovirus is a common cause of diarrhea, vomiting and fever in children and has been known to cause hepatitis in children with weakened or damaged immune systems.
Moving forward, the CDC reminds researchers to “be aware of possible differences in adenovirus test sensitivity for different specimen types” and that “that adenovirus should be considered in the differential diagnosis of acute hepatitis of unknown etiology among children.” The CDC also advises parents to keep watch for the following symptoms in their children: jaundice, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, and joint pain.
- Acute hepatitis of unknown aetiology in children – Multi-country
- CDC to investigate whether adenovirus is ‘incidental’ in children with mysterious hepatitis
- Acute Hepatitis and Adenovirus Infection Among Children — Alabama, October 2021–February 2022
- More cases of mystery hepatitis in kids: Possible cause, symptoms, prevention
- Children with Hepatitis of Unknown Cause
- As global cases rise, researchers race to solve puzzle of mysterious hepatitis cases in children