We have a hepatitis outbreak among children in the US, UK, Canada and Japan, and now an additional 12 countries. This is a serious disease with a risk of permanent liver damage or death to the victim.
Hepatitis is usually caused by a virus, but at this point, scientists are uncertain as to which virus to blame. Current thinking points to a version of the adenovirus as the culprit. This is the virus that triggers the common cold. Some of the cases, but not all, have been shown to be infected with Adenovirus Type 41. Some also had Covid.
This type of hepatitus is new, and doesn’t match versions (A. B. C. D or E) that doctors have seen to date. That is, tests for standard hepatitis versions will be negative. Thus most of these cases up to now have been classified by hospitals as “unexplained liver injury.”
Thus far, there have been 200 known cases, triggering 17 liver transplant operations and one death. All victims are between the ages of 1 month and 16 years. The death was in Wisconsin.
The first known case was reported in UK. The first known US case was reported in Alabama in November 2021. Since that time, that hospital has seen ten more cases and cases have been reported in North Carolina, Illinois and Wisconsin. Ten cases were reported to the World Health Organization on April 5th, and since then, cases have been reported in a total of 16 countries.
Jaundice — yellowing of white area of the eyes — is the key differentiator between this and other childhood diseases.
“We are learning more about the cases of acute hepatitis in children and trying to understand any similarities in cases that could help us to identify them sooner. Some common symptoms that have been reported in known cases are the presence of diarrhea and jaundice in the absence of fever. Diarrhea is a quite common symptom in children and can be seen with a number of infectious causes, including many kinds of viruses, as well as non-infectious causes.”
“Jaundice, however, especially in the age group in which the hepatitis cases have been more common, is a more rare symptom,” said Dr. Kalaskar. “Any child with diarrhea and jaundice should be seen for evaluation.” (emphasis added)Dr. Anupama Kalaskar, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Children’s Minnesota Hospital in Minneapolis (1)
This is real, this is emerging and we have no tools as yet for either diagnosis or treatment. The lack of tools means that we also don’t know how widespread this is or how fast it is growing. We do know that the geographic spread is already large, and that suggests a lot of cases that haven’t been reported. Just in the US there are a lot of families between North Carolina and Wisconsin.
I used the military term, “meeting engagement”, to describe our encounter with SARS-CoV-2. I certainly wasn’t expecting another quite so soon.