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Unexplained hepatitis in kids: What parents should know

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Posted at 4:01 PM, May 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-09 17:27:05-04

(WXYZ) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to investigate at least 109 cases of unexplained hepatitis in American children.

Hepatitis is not common at all in children. It’s adults that are most at risk for hepatitis infections, especially those between the ages of 30 and 59. So, that’s why these younger cases are getting so much attention.

Right now, there are over 228 probable cases of unexplained hepatitis in children in at least 20 countries. I expect that number to rise as there are over dozens more under investigation, according to the World Health Organization.

Now here in the U.S., 25 states and territories have reported cases. Last week, the CDC looked at clinical data from cases in Alabama. Here’s what they found: Nine children had unexplained hepatitis, meaning there was no clear cause.

The children ranged in age from 1 to 6 years, with the medium age being 3. They lived in different areas and were generally healthy with no underlying medical issues.

Now, three of the nine children ended up with acute liver failure. Two of them need liver transplants as their conditions were life-threatening. Thankfully, all nine are reported to be recovering. However, of the 109 unexplained cases here in the U.S., five deaths have been unfortunately reported.

We have two vaccines: hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Hepatitis A is two shots starting at 12 months of age. The vaccine not only protects the child but can also prevent outbreaks. Hepatitis B consists of three shots starting shortly after birth. This vaccine usually creates long-term immunity.

Having said that, hepatitis is a liver infection — it’s inflammation. Besides hepatitis A and B, there are three other specific viruses that can cause this: hepatitis, C, D and E. We have no vaccines for those three.

Plus, there are also other possible causes like certain toxins and medications. There is also a type of adenovirus that the CDC has been investigating because it’s shown up in quite a few of the children’s blood work.

So, while there is no conclusion right now as to what’s behind these kids’ cases of hepatitis, I would stress that parents make sure their children are up to date on vaccines, especially hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

I’m a parent and all my kids have been vaccinated for hepatitis as the vaccines are very safe and quite effective.

Also, please seek medical attention if a child gets sick and has symptoms like nausea, abdominal pain and yellowing of the skin and eyes.

Remember, these cases of unexplained hepatitis are very rare, but it’s still important for parents to stay up to date with current information and take action if they’re concerned.