On Friday, US health officials announced that they are examining 109 cases of severe hepatitis of unknown origin in children, with five deaths reported. Thereby, updating a nationwide alert issued in April asking doctors to be on the lookout for such cases of liver illness.
During a conference call, Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stated the cases were present in 25 states and territories over the last seven months.
A liver transplant was necessary for 14 of the children.
No specific cause found yet
Butler added that about half of the 109 children diagnosed with hepatitis also had adenovirus. It is the virus that causes the common cold. But the CDC is still looking into the specific cause of the disease.
Hepatitis caused by this kind of adenovirus has been almost exclusively connected to immunocompromised children. However, Butler noted that many of the cases first reported to the CDC did not have such symptoms.
He said that the “vast majority” of the children identified were ineligible for COVID vaccination, which he claimed was “unrelated to these cases.”
The CDC is looking into whether COVID infection, as well as other pathogens, medications, and animals, played a role.
No rise in frequency of hepatitis in children
The CDC reported that there has been no overall rise in the frequency of severe hepatitis in children. It remains rare, compared to pre-pandemic rates.
The update comes after examinations into hepatitis clusters in young children in the United States and Europe.
The World Health Organization announced earlier this week that it has received reports of at least 228 probable cases from 20 countries. There were more than 50 cases under investigation.
The CDC stated that it is collaborating with European counterparts to determine the source of infections that can cause liver damage and lead to liver failure.