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'Concerning' hepatitis cases in children continue to grow

Most children developing the mysterious cases of hepatitis are 1 month to 16 years old, baffling medical professionals.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently investigating cases of unexplained hepatitis in kids. To date, over 100 cases have been discovered in 25 states, including here in Texas.

The cases date back to late October in children under 10. At least one child in San Antonio has been hospitalized and several cases have been reported there, according to UT Health-San Antonio

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The liver is a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters the blood, and fights infections. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected, according to the CDC. 

“We are casting a wide net to broaden our understanding," the CDC’s Dr. Jay Butler said.

What's causing the illnesses isn't clear. Adenovirus was detected in half the children, “but we do not know if it is the cause," he said.

Dr. Salim Surani said the growing number of cases is concerning. 

"We know that most of the time, especially with Hepatitis A, when it happens- we know what the cause is, Surani said. "Usually food-borne illness, and we know that it happens in a cluster- that is, one person has it, it contaminates the food, somebody else eats it.

"A lot of the times we know what the cause (of hepatitis) is, this is a very mysterious illness and the numbers are increasing. If you look at a couple weeks ago, the numbers were in the 300s, now it is in the 400s. Instead of 20 countries, now we have it in 33 countries.

"When you have a bad liver, if it doesn't heal, you need a transplant and almost 40% of the patients who has it had the transplant, and most of the folks are 1 month to 16 years old, with the median age somewhere around two years of age, and that is something that we don't usually see in children, and that is perplexing a lot of medical folks."

Parents are asked to report any symptoms of hepatitis to their physician, including:

  • fever
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • dark urine
  • light-colored stools
  • joint pain
  • jaundice

 

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