On April 21st, the CDC issued a “nationwide health alert” regarding mysterious cases of hepatitis occurring in young children in the state of Alabama, instructing healthcare providers “to be on the lookout” for any symptoms that line up with hepatitis.
While the origin of the hepatitis is still unknown, the young children in question were also found to have been infected with adenovirus.
According to the CDC’s nationwide health alert, agency officials are actively working with the Alabama Department of Public Health to investigate what was described as “a cluster of nine cases of hepatitis of unknown origin in children ranging from 1 to 6 years old.”
Apparently, all of the children infected “were previously healthy,” nor were they initially admitted into the hospital due to any COVID infection. The first cases were reportedly discovered in October of 2021 when five children were admitted to an Alabama hospital “with significant liver injury,” some of whom were enduring acute liver failure.
Further review found four other pediatric cases of hepatitis, with all nine of the children also testing positive for adenovirus. Per the CDC regarding the adenovirus link, some of the children “had adenovirus type 41, which more commonly causes pediatric acute gastroenteritis,” but “No known epidemiological link or common exposures were found among these children.”
While hepatitis (which is an inflammation of the liver) was apparent in these pediatric cases, the exact source is unknown as hepatitis A, B, and C were all ruled out.
Following a statewide alert issued in Alabama on February 1st, no additional cases have cropped up. However, the CDC stated they’re “aware of an increase in cases of pediatric hepatitis without a known cause recently reported in Europe.” CDC are currently in contact with European health officials regarding the matter, as many of their cases abroad also involved children being infected with adenovirus.
With so much ambiguity revolving around these cases, the CDC opted to broadcast the alert nationally to see if other instances of pediatric hepatitis with an unknown origin have transpired in other states.
Thus far, North Carolina has emerged with two such cases, with North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Bailey Pennington confirming that both “cases were in school-aged children. Neither required a transplant, and both have since recovered.”
To date, there have been no reported deaths regarding these strange cases of pediatric hepatitis. Still, two of the children in Alabama required liver transplants, and eight in the United Kingdom and one in Spain.
Numerous other countries are starting to look into suspected cases of pediatric hepatitis, with France investigating two potential cases and Israel reviewing a dozen potential cases that occurred over the past four months.
Currently, the United Kingdom has distinguished itself as the leader in these odd cases occurring, having most recently reported a total of 108 cases of pediatric hepatitis.