Milwaukee – The increase in cases of severe hepatitis in children has health officials in Wisconsin on alert.
The The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is investigating at least four cases in childrenIncluding someone who needed a liver transplant and died. The four children also tested positive for adenovirus, according to DHS.
“Hepatitis can be very severe,” said Dr. Greg Demore, a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He specializes in pediatric infectious diseases. “Hepatitis is an infection of the liver, or inflammation of the liver, most commonly caused by a virus.”
This, doctors know. What they don’t know is why they’re seeing more hepatitis in children potentially linked to adenovirus.
DeMuri described the adenovirus as the common cold. The specific type associated with recent cases of hepatitis, adenovirus 41, often causes gastrointestinal problems. He said it’s been known to cause hepatitis in the past.
“It’s really rare, and I’ve only seen a few cases,” he said, adding that it usually affects children with compromised immune systems. “The new part of this is really that it affects healthy children and it appears to be higher than we would expect.”
according to Health Alert from the Wisconsin Department of Homeland Security, the agency began its own investigation after learning about a group of nine children in Alabama with severe liver injury who also tested positive for adenovirus. Three of them ended up in acute liver failure and two in liver transplants. All the children were previously healthy.
As of April 21, The World Health Organization has reported 169 cases of acute hepatitis B infection in children From 12 countries of unknown origin. The World Health Organization reports that in 10% of cases, children need a liver transplant.
“Not everyone with hepatitis will have an adenovirus test, but now doctors need to know how to do it,” Demory said.
DHS has issued an alert to the Health Network so doctors know how to test and report. Demory said some of his colleagues at the university are also looking at how to delve deeper than normal blood tests to get to the cause.
“We need to know: Is this a mutating virus, a variant if you’re going to get more contagious and more likely to cause infection in the liver, or is this just a random event?” Demory said. “It doesn’t look like these are hepatitis A, B or C – some other hepatitis viruses as we call them. Those have been ruled out. Hepatitis A outbreaks are well known and we can deal with them. There is a vaccine for them. But that has nothing to do with any of those. viruses”.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services DHS
Now, most of the anxiety comes from the unknown, Demory said.
“If you’re the average parent in Wisconsin, I’d say do some smart things to make sure your kids are healthy, but I don’t think you should put this high on your radar for things to worry about,” he said.
Besides monitoring children for symptoms of hepatitis, including jaundice, fever, fatigue and intestinal problems, Demore said it’s important to keep children up to date with hepatitis A and B vaccinations.
The City of Milwaukee Health Department said it is waiting for more information from the state as it learns more.