U.S. health officials from the CDC have sent out a nationwide alert for doctors to be on the lookout for symptoms of pediatric hepatitis following clusters of severe cases of liver failure in young children in both Europe and the U.S.
So far, nine cases have been reported in Alabama, and two more have been reported in North Carolina, according to NBC News. There have been 74 documented cases in the United Kingdom, three in Spain, and several cases in both Denmark and the Netherlands. The Israeli Health Ministry reported at least 12 similar cases as well. All reported cases have been in children ages 1 to 6 who were previously healthy and seemingly do not have underlying conditions.
Health officials are not sure what is behind this unusual outbreak, but they do know it’s serious: two of the children diagnosed in Alabama needed life-saving liver transplants. Fortunately, there have not been any casualties from these unexplained cases of hepatitis.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and can be caused by many things, including excessive alcohol consumption, some medications, and other health conditions. For the most part, however, hepatitis is caused by a viral infection of sorts.
Symptoms of hepatitis can include diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and jaundice, or a yellowing of the skin. So far, experts have ruled out the most common viruses that cause hepatitis type A, B, C, D, and E.
Experts are stressing that the condition has absolutely nothing to do with COVID-19 or the coronavirus vaccine.
"None of the children in the cluster tested positive for Covid-19 disease. None had previously reported Covid-19 disease," said Dr. Karen Landers, a health officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, told NBC. She added, "None of the children received Covid-19 vaccine."
If anything, signs are pointing to a virus that isn’t usually associated with liver failure: adenovirus type 41, which can cause things like vomiting and diarrhea in children, but more often presents as the common cold.
"While there have been case reports of hepatitis in immunocompromised children with adenovirus type 41 infection, adenovirus type 41 is not known to be a cause of hepatitis in otherwise healthy children," the CDC said in its alert.
Five of the nine children in Alabama with the liver failure also tested positive for the adenovirus.
With this information, the CDC’s alert urges doctors “who may encounter pediatric patients with hepatitis of unknown etiology to consider adenovirus testing and to elicit reporting of such cases to state public health authorities and to CDC."