NEW YORK ( Associated Press) – US health officials are investigating more than 100 possible cases of mysterious and serious liver disease in children, including five deaths.
Nearly two dozen states reported suspected cases when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called on doctors to be on the lookout for surprising cases of hepatitis. Cases in children below the age of 10 are as of the end of October. So far, only nine cases have been confirmed in Alabama.
“We’re laying a wide net to broaden our understanding,” CDC’s Dr. Jay Butler said Friday.
It is not clear what causes the diseases. Adenovirus was detected in half the children, “but we don’t know if this is the cause,” he said.
There are dozens of adenoviruses, many of them associated with cold-like symptoms, fever, sore throat and pink eye. But some versions can trigger other problems, including inflammation in the stomach and intestines. Officials are exploring a link to a specific variant that is commonly associated with inflammation of the gut.
US health officials have not seen evidence of an unusually large wave of adenovirus infections, although many doctors do not usually test for it.
This week, World Health Organization officials said they had reports of about 300 possible cases in 20 countries.
In the US, most children were young, nearly all were hospitalized and eight had liver transplants
“It’s still a very rare event,” Butler said. “Most of these cases have recovered and made a full recovery.”
The mystery goes back to November, when Alabama health officials began seeing the first of nine cases of severe hepatitis in children in that state. None tested positive for the virus that usually causes hepatitis. However, the test for adenovirus was positive.
Butler said none of the Alabama children had been vaccinated for COVID-19. It has been ruled out as a possible cause, “and we hope this information helps to clarify some of the speculation circulating online.”
Symptoms of hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, joint pain, and jaundice.
In addition to Alabama, states reporting suspected cases are: California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania , Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin. Puerto Rico also reported at least one case.