First U.S. Childhood Death Linked to Mysterious Hepatitis Cases Reported
While global health experts are continuing to investigate the cause of mysterious hepatitis cases diagnosed among children in several countries, the first American child death has been confirmed by officials.
The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a health alerts for an outbreak of hepatitis infection with unknown origin, which has sickened more than 200 children in 14 different countries, including the U.S., Spain, Israel, the Netherlands, France, Romania, Japan and Canada.
Reports of severe liver injury caused by hepatitis were first reported in the U.K., and testing has found that the infections were not linked to the typical strains of hepatitis (A, B, C, D and E).
Health officials believe the infections may be triggered by an adenovirus, which typically causes the common cold, but the determination is not definitive. Adenovirus does not usually cause severe hepatitis in healthy children. However, recent reports have hypothesized that the spreading childhood hepatitis cases may have also been influenced by pandemic-related lockdowns in recent years.
According to recent media reports, the first U.S. child with a suspected case of the mystery hepatitis infection has died in Wisconsin, where state health officials are investigating at least four cases of suspected hepatitis. However, the Wisconsin Department of Health has not released any details about the child who died.
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The CDC issued an official hepatitis warning about the outbreak on April 21, and launched an investigation after a cluster of cases were first confirmed in Alabama. There are 20 confirmed cases of the hepatitis illness in the US currently, across six different states.
So far, nine children have been hospitalized in Alabama between November and February. Three children had acute liver failure and two required liver transplants. All the children who were tested came back positive for adenovirus.
Other cases have been confirmed in North Carolina and Delaware and health officials in Illinois and New York are investigating reports of similar occurrences.
North Carolina had two confirmed cases last month, both children recovered, but neither tested positive for adenovirus. There was one case in Delaware and three probable cases in Illinois, where one child needed a liver transplant. At least 18 children have needed liver transplants due to the outbreak worldwide.
Health officials said there is no confirmed cause but suspect a virus since the illnesses are appearing in clusters. Another possible cause may be pandemic lockdowns. Isolation may have led to weakened immunity in children, making them more susceptible to the virus, or perhaps a mutated version of the adenovirus.
Health officials ruled out the COVID vaccine as a possible cause since none of the British children were vaccinated because of their young age. Officials don’t believe it is linked to COVID-19 infections, but have yet to confirm it is not linked to a variant.
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