Jaundiced yellow eye

‘Very Unusual’ Rise in Cases of Severe Liver Damage Seen in Children Across UK, US, and Europe

We just can’t seem to escape wide-spread public health threats. This time it is a liver disease that doctors are seeing unusually high numbers of in children across the UK, Europe, and the United States. The CDC has officially issued an alert for parents to keep an eye on their kids for symptoms of this liver-damaging disease.

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Very Unusual Liver Disease Found Widespread In Children

Hepatitis is essentially inflammation of the liver. The CDC recently asked physicians in the UK, Europe, and North America to be on the lookout for unusual cases of severe hepatitis in children. This comes after cases have been reported in the United States along with dozens in the UK, Denmark, Spain, Israel, Ireland, and the Netherlands. In the US, the states specifically where the cases have been seen are Alabama and North Carolina. As of now, authorities have reported 169 cases in 12 countries. (1)

The affected children are all between the ages of one and six years old. None of them have any previous health conditions or complications. They were all healthy children. There has been one death, however, many have been hospitalized. A few of them have even had to have liver transplants.

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What Is Hepatitis?

As already mentioned, hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. It can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Some of the children recently who have developed the disease also have jaundice. 

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The Cause

In this specific instance with an outbreak of the disease in various locations around the world, doctors have not yet identified a cause. Liver inflammation is usually caused by certain viruses known as hepatitis type A, B, C, D, and E. These have all been ruled out this time. The investigators also checked for reasons related to COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccine, but those, too, have been ruled out as potential causes. (2)

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“None of the children in the cluster tested positive for Covid-19 disease. None had previously reported Covid-19 disease,” said Dr. Karen Landers, a health officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, adding, “None of the children received Covid-19 vaccine.”

Since then, however, 20 cases have tested positive for COVID-19. Still, none of them are connected to the vaccine, just the virus itself.

One theory is a virus that is not usually associated with liver inflammation. That virus is adenovirus type 41. Between October and February, five of the nine cases in Alabama tested positive for that virus. Public health is working hard to monitor and control the situation.

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“Noninfectious causes of hepatitis or cases where a virus is not recognized may not be routinely reported,” said AnneMarie Harper, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We will be reaching out to Colorado health care providers to share information and actively monitor for possible cases in Colorado consistent with these reports.”

Of all the cases, doctors have found adenovirus in 74 patients, COVID-19 in 20, and both in 19.

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Recovering

The liver does regenerate itself quite well if given the chance. If hepatitis and inflammation of the liver is not treated, however, it can be fatal. This is why the CDC is asking for physicians to be on high alert. 

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“Mild hepatitis is very common in children following a range of viral infections, but what is being seen at the moment is quite different,” Graham Cooke, a professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College London, said earlier this week. (3)

They are also notifying the public so that parents, teachers, and other adults who work with children are aware. If you notice your children exhibiting any signs of hepatitis, take them to the doctor straight away. The sooner they are treated, the less likely extensive damage to occur.

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Sources

  1. CDC issues alert for rare liver damage in children.” NBC News.  Erika Edwards. April 21, 2022.
  2. Possible Case of Mysterious Liver Disease in Kids Reported in Illinois Amid CDC Warning.” NBC Chicago.  April 25, 2022
  3. Hepatitis outbreak: At least one child dies after mysterious rise in liver disease cases worldwide.” Sky. Megan Baynes. April 24, 2022
Julie Hambleton
Freelance Writer
Julie Hambleton has a BSc in Food and Nutrition from the Western University, Canada, is a former certified personal trainer and a competitive runner. Julie loves food, culture, and health, and enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others make positive changes and live healthier lives.
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