The cases first came to light when officials in Alabama contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about nine hepatitis cases among young children there last October. The CDC issued an alert, citing the nine hepatitis cases in Alabama, in late April. Since then, Drenzek said about 300 suspected cases have been reported in 24 other countries.
Nationwide, Drenzek said 90% of the children with the unidentified hepatitis were hospitalized and 14% needed organ transplants. Five children have died. Their median age is 2 years old. The CDC has not provided details about the children who died or where those deaths occurred.
The DPH stressed the hepatitis is still very rare and the cause has not yet been determined. The CDC is looking into whether a type of adenovirus may be playing a role. About half of the children had a type of adenovirus — a common virus that causes intestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea — but none tested positive for the most commonly known hepatitis viruses.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that typically occurs in adults but in children it is most commonly caused by viruses. Symptoms of hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine and jaundice or yellowing of the eyes or skin.
“Nationally, the CDC is casting a very wide net to try to identify affected patients and ask very detailed questions about a number of potential exposures, previous infections, other potential cofactors, toxins, medications, animal exposures, you name it,” said Drenzek.
Health officials will also be looking into any possible link to coronavirus infections. Drenzek pointed out it’s not related to COVID-19 vaccinations because these young children have not been vaccinated.