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Child being treated for rare case of hepatitis in San Antonio hospital; pediatricians weigh in on symptoms to look for

The World Health Organization has reported cases in kids 1 month to 16 years old. About 10 percent have required liver transplants, and one death has been reported.

SAN ANTONIO — UT Health San Antonio doctors have seen cases of a mysterious liver disease in otherwise healthy children. Naveen Mittal, Chief of the Pediatric Gastroenterology division added that one child is being treated for the illness at a San Antonio hospital. 

Dr. Mittal said they are staying in touch with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the cases they have seen. 

"The first case we received that met the criteria was about ten days ago," he said. 

He said they are currently monitoring the one hospitalized child and providing nontransplant intervention. 

RELATED: CDC warns doctors of rise of mysterious liver illness affecting kids

On April 21, the CDC alerted providers about the cases of hepatitis with unknown origins. At the time, nine children, ages 1 - 6 in Alabama had been identified with hepatitis and adenovirus. The CDC asked physicians to be on the lookout and report any suspected cases to local and state health departments. 

According to the World Health Organization, cases have been found in children 1 month - 16 years old. About 10% have required liver transplants, and one death has been reported. 

Dr. Tiffany Ponzio, a pediatrician at Southwest Children's Center in San Antonio. She spoke with KENS5 about what we know about this rare form of hepatitis so far.

What symptoms should parents look for?

Dr. Ponzio: Hepatitis is just  a word for inflammation of the liver. With that we tend to see fever, fatigue, loss of appetite nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, sometimes you’ll even notice dark urine or really pale colored stools, and of course jaundice which is just yellowing of the eyes and skin. 

What do we know so far about this form of hepatitis? 

Dr. Ponzio: We still have a lot to learn. We do know thought that they’ve ruled out the main hepatitis virus’ (as the root cause)  hepatitis a, b, and c, those do not appear to be linked to what we’re seeing. There does appear to be a link to adenovirus, which is a really common childhood virus that we see. It typically causes respiratory illness, but we do know that it can cause GI illness, like your common stomach bug symptoms as well as pink eye or even bladder infections. 

What kind of testing is available?

Dr. Ponzio: Right now there’s no specific test for this exact strain of hepatitis that we’re seeing. So, we look at liver enzymes, we have the ability to order those tests here or at most pediatricians office. 

What about treatment?

Dr. Ponzio: There is no definitive treatment for this type of hepatitis right now, but we do know kids are being closely monitored, supportive care is being given and the lab monitoring is really crucial, that we trend those labs until resolution. 

Dr. Mittal and Dr. Ponzio both recommend addressing any concerns with a pediatrician or primary care physician. 

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