CDC shares new data on mysterious hepatitis cases: 5 notes

A new report from the CDC provides the most detailed insights yet into the nation's earliest confirmed pediatric acute hepatitis cases potentially linked to an adenovirus.

The report, published April 29, describes the clinical characteristics of nine pediatric patients ranging from about age 2 to 6 who were treated at Children's of Alabama in Birmingham between October 2021 and February 2022.

Five notes:

1. While three patients had liver failure and two needed liver transplants, all are either recovering or have fully recovered. 

2. Vomiting and diarrhea were the most common symptoms among children prior to their hospitalization. Upon admission, eight children had yellowing of the whites in their eyes, seven had enlarged livers, six experienced jaundice and one had encephalopathy, a broad term for brain diseases. 

3. The children all tested negative for hepatitis viruses A, B and C. Physicians also ruled out several other common causes of pediatric hepatitis, such as Wilson disease and urinary tract infections.

4. Six patients also tested positive for Epstein-Barr virus, though antibody levels suggested these were previous infections. None of the children had a history of COVID-19. 

5. Every child tested positive for adenovirus, which is a known cause of hepatitis among immunocompromoised children.

"It might be an underrecognized contributor to liver injury among healthy children," the CDC said. "The magnitude of this relationship remains under investigation."

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