CDC issues alert on mystery hepatitis outbreak affecting dozens of children in US, UK and four other countries

Cases were found in children aged between one and six in Alabama

Stuti Mishra
Friday 22 April 2022 13:46 BST
File image: The CDC has recommended adenovirus testing when the cause of a child’s infection isn’t clear
File image: The CDC has recommended adenovirus testing when the cause of a child’s infection isn’t clear (Getty)

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Louise Thomas

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A cluster of severe hepatitis cases among children in Alabama has prompted the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a nationwide health alert.

The guidelines issued on Wednesday have alerted health care providers and public health authorities that an investigation is underway. It also recommended that adenovirus testing be carried out when the cause of a child’s infection isn’t clear.

It comes after more than 100 hepatitis cases were confirmed in the UK alone, with more reported in at least four other countries.

The advisory says Alabama health officials identified nine cases of hepatitis in children aged between one and six, who had also tested positive for adenovirus since October. All children were previously healthy and none had contracted Covid-19.

Several were determined to have what is known as adenovirus type 41, which typically causes diarrhoea, vomiting and respiratory symptoms.

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that can be caused by viral infections, alcohol use, toxins, medications, and certain other medical conditions, while adenoviruses are doubled-stranded DNA viruses that are spread by close personal contact, respiratory droplets and fomites, the CDC website states.

The CDC has ruled out some common causes of liver inflammation, including the hepatitis A, B and C viruses, in the Alabama cases.

“At this time, we believe adenovirus may be the cause for these reported cases, but investigators are still learning more – including ruling out other possible causes and identifying other possible contributing factors,” the agency said.

The health advisory noted that they were investigating a possible association between pediatric hepatitis and adenovirus infection.

“Cases of pediatric hepatitis in children who tested negative for hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D, and E were reported earlier this month in the United Kingdom, including some with adenovirus infection,” it added.

Public health authorities in the US and the UK have already announced that they had launched an investigation to look into the causes of an unknown type of hepatitis.

The World Health Organisation also issued an advisory stating that 74 cases of “acute hepatitis of unknown aetiology” among children across the UK had been identified.

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