Adenovirus: The Reason behind Mysterious Cases of Hepatitis

A mysterious case of hepatitis has broken out throughout various corners of the world. In view of the spiking cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning doctors to keep an eye out for mysterious cases of hepatitis that are affecting young kids in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Possibly Caused by Group of Viruses

Upsurging cases of hepatitis have become a matter of concern worldwide. In fact, two children in the US have become so affected that they have been required for a liver transplant. Officials in Europe and Israel have reported similar recent cases.

Since late 2021, children have been coming down with severe hepatitis (liver inflammation) that could not be explained by other well-known causes, such as the group of viruses most commonly responsible for hepatitis. For the latest cases of hepatitis, symptoms such as jaundice, fever, stomach pain, as well as discolored urine and feces, with more life-threatening cases leading to complete liver failure have been detected.

Surging Cases of Hepatitis

So far, reports have largely come from the UK—over 100 cases have been reported since January 2022. But dating back to last fall, doctors at an Alabama children’s hospital have been seeing their own similarly unexplained cases of hepatitis. Between October 2021 and February 2022, they’ve documented nine such ill children. Three developed acute liver failure and two went on to need transplants, but none have died so far.

On 21 April 2022, the CDC formally sent out a health advisory to doctors across the country, asking them to keep track of pediatric cases that could be similar to the cluster in Alabama. On 22 April 2022, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported that around 30 similar hepatitis cases have been documented in Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, France, and Spain, with four children needing liver transplants. Following an alert from the World Health Organization, Israel’s Health Ministry announced that it’s now looking into 12 cases that seem to fit the criteria.

The ‘Adenovirus’ behind cases of hepatitis

The primary suspect in these cases is an adenovirus—in particular, adenovirus type 41. Type 41 is primarily known for being a common cause of gastrointestinal illness in children, but it has been implicated as a rare source of hepatitis before, though only in children with weakened immune systems. The virus has been found in many but not all cases of this mystery outbreak, both in the U.S. and the UK.

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