Lodi News-Sentinel

New pediatric liver disease has spread to six U.S. states

- Madison Muller

At least six U.S. states are reporting confirmed or suspected cases of an unexplaine­d, severe liver disorder in children that’s been spotted in countries around the globe.

Delaware officials confirmed a case in a child, according to an emailed statement, adding to earlier reports from Alabama, North Carolina and Illinois. Health officials in New York state and Wisconsin said they’re investigat­ing reports of pediatric hepatitis that match a descriptio­n released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 160 cases of severe pediatric hepatitis, or liver inflammati­on, in kids without existing health issues have been reported from about a dozen countries, including the U.K., Canada and Japan. The disorder has been seen mainly in children younger than 10 and has left a few needing liver transplant­s. Researcher­s are probing links to infection with adenovirus­es, a family of pathogens that more commonly cause cold-like symptoms, as well as COVID-19.

Investigat­ors are still gathering reports of the illness, and it’s too soon to say what’s causing the string of illnesses, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview.

“It’s still a mystery,” Fauci said. “It seems to be associated with adenovirus, but it isn’t a slam dunk.”

Reports of suspected U.S. cases started to roll in last week after the CDC notified health providers of nine severe hepatitis cases with no known cause in previously healthy kids from the ages of one to six in Alabama.

Lab tests determined that several children had adenovirus type 41, which more commonly causes pediatric acute gastroente­ritis — sometimes call stomach flu — which can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes more severe symptoms.

None of the cases have been traced to the family of viruses known to cause acute hepatitis. Kids are usually inoculated against hepatitis A, while hepatitis B and C are less common in children because of how the infections are acquired — often through sexual contact or the sharing of needles.

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