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Why Are Kids Being Hospitalized with Severe Hepatitis?

  • Category: Kids' Tips
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Baton Rouge General
Why Are Kids Being Hospitalized with Severe Hepatitis?

Cases of children diagnosed with severe hepatitis in 25 states, including Louisiana, are getting a closer look from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Experts are working to understand what is causing these clusters of cases, as many of them are in otherwise healthy children with no underlying medical conditions. In nearly all the cases, the children had to be hospitalized.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, with symptoms including yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, dark urine, abdominal pain, light-colored stools, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and joint pain. It is caused most commonly by viral infections in children, but the viruses doctors would typically suspect weren’t found in these cases. However, many of the children tested positive for adenovirus, a large group of viruses common among children, causing issues from pinkeye to stomach flu-like illness.

In late April, the CDC issued a health alert to the medical community about the cases – now up to about 110 in the U.S. – in which children had both hepatitis and an adenovirus infection. The alert asked healthcare providers to be on the lookout for symptoms of hepatitis and to report any suspected cases with unknown cause to their local and state health departments.

There has been some buzz on social media about a connection between the hepatitis cases and COVID-19 vaccination, but experts have found no evidence to support this. There is currently not a vaccine approved for use in children under 5 years old, and many of the children who have been reported with severe hepatitis are too young to be vaccinated. The United Kingdom Health Security Agency has also reported that none of its more than 100 cases to date were in children who had been vaccinated.

Though the cause is still not known, a particular adenovirus strain is the top suspect. So, what should parents look out for as researchers keep digging? There are a host of viral illnesses that cause gastrointestinal issues, fever and fatigue, which can make it tricky to know that something more is going on. As with any viral illness, contact your pediatrician if your child can’t keep fluids down or becomes lethargic. The most concerning signs are if you see dark urine, light-colored stools and the yellowing of the skin or yellowing in the whites of the eyes. In this case, seek medical attention right away.