CDC warns parents about hepatitis in kids

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 6:26 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning parents about kids getting hepatitis linked to a common virus.

The condition can be caused by many things, but the CDC said there’s been outbreaks the past six months involving some children who have also had adenovirus. The agency said doctors right now aren’t exactly sure what’s causing this new form of hepatitis, however, some cases have been linked to adenovirus.

The virus generally has symptoms ranging from a common cold to a stomach bug but it now may be causing something much more serious.

“We are trying to see if this is just a blip or if it’s real and it’s causing a rise at an alarming rate,” Mayo Clinic Pediatric Transplant Hepatologist Dr. Sara Hassan said.

She said there’s still a lot of unknowns about outbreaks of hepatitis in previously healthy children.

The CDC recently said it was investigating 109 pediatric cases of what it called “severe” and “unexplained” hepatitis, which is liver inflammation.

Marshfield Clinic pediatric infectious diseases expert Dr. Thomas Boyce said right now, parents shouldn’t be too concerned about the outbreak even if their kid gets an adenovirus. However, there are telltale signs to look for and that’s when parents should take their child to the pediatrician.

“Symptoms are going to be, you know, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, which are common symptoms,” he said. “So if those are more severe than typical, or they last longer than you’re comfortable with, I think having the child evaluated is reasonable.”

He said telltale signs for hepatitis, in general, include yellowing of the skin and eyes, as well as changes in the colors of stool or urine.

A simple blood test can diagnose the liver inflammation.

Boyce said, however, if a kid gets hepatitis through a virus or some unknown cause, treatment options are limited.

“The treatment is supportive,” he said. “So, a child would usually be in a hospital and they would support the liver, give them medications to help with that.”

Boyce said if the immune system can’t fight off the condition’s underlying cause, that child would likely need a liver transplant.

He said this hepatitis strain is not the commonly found types, A through E.

He added even though doctors aren’t sure the adenovirus causes the condition, simple hygiene steps, like good hand-washing, can help protect someone from adenovirus.

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