Thursday, December 01, 2022

Theories emerge about mysterious childhood hepatitis

NEW YORK ( Associated Press) — Health authorities continue to puzzle over mysterious cases of severe liver damage in hundreds of children around the world.

The best available evidence points to a fairly common stomach virus that is not known to cause liver damage in healthy children. The virus has been detected in the blood of sick children, but it is striking that it has not been found in their livers.

“There are a lot of things that don’t make sense,” said Eric Kremer, a virus researcher at the Molecular Genetics Institute in Montpellier, France.

As health authorities in more than a dozen countries unravel the mystery, they are wondering:

— Has there been a resurgence of the stomach virus, called adenovirus 41, which is causing more cases of a previously unnoticed problem?

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— Have children become more susceptible because of the pandemic-related lockdowns that protected them from the viruses they often get?

— Is there a mutated version of the adenovirus that causes this? Or is it another germ, substance or toxin not yet identified?

— Is it some erratic reaction of the immune system triggered by a previous infection of COVID-19 and a subsequent invasion of some other virus?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and researchers around the world are trying to figure out what’s going on.

The ailment appears to be unusual. CDC officials said last week that they were looking at 180 possible cases across the United States. Most of the children were hospitalized, at least 15 required transplants, and six of them died.

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More than 20 other nations have reported hundreds of additional cases in total, although the highest numbers have been in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Symptoms of hepatitis include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, joint pain, and yellowing of the skin.

The magnitude of the problem only became clearer last month, although researchers have been working on this problem for months. It has been extremely difficult to find a cause, experts say.

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