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Michigan reporting first cases of possible unexplained hepatitis in children

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Posted at 4:40 PM, May 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-06 23:14:12-04

(AP MODIFIED) — U.S. health officials are looking into more than 100 possible cases of a mysterious and severe liver disease in children across the United States, including in Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Resources has confirmed two potential cases of the unexplained hepatitis, one in Oakland County and one in the City of Detroit.

The MDHHS has released the following statement: "MDHHS has provided this data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of their Health Alert Network Health Advisory to notify clinicians and public health authorities of a cluster of children identified with hepatitis and adenovirus infection, stemming from nine patients presenting with this infection at a large children’s hospital in Alabama in November 2021. None had COVID-19. MDHHS is working with clinicians across the state to gather data on children under 10 years of age who have an unknown etiology for their hepatitis since October 1, 2021. MDHHS will continue to provide this information to the CDC as they conduct their investigation."

About two dozen states reported suspected cases after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out a call for doctors to be on the lookout for surprising cases of hepatitis. The cases date back to late October in children under 10. So far, only nine cases in Alabama have been confirmed.

“We are casting a wide net to broaden our understanding,” the CDC’s Dr. Jay Butler said Friday.

What’s causing the illnesses isn’t clear. Adenovirus was detected in half the children, “but we do not know if it is the cause,” he said.

There are dozens of adenoviruses, many of them associated with coldlike symptoms, fever, sore throat and pink eye. But some versions can trigger other problems, including inflammation in the stomach and intestines. Officials are exploring a link to one particular version that’s normally associated with gut inflammation.

U.S. health officials haven’t seen evidence of an unusually large wave of adenovirus infections, although many doctors don’t usually test for it.

This week, the World Health Organization officials said they had reports of almost 300 probable cases in 20 countries.

In the U.S., most of the children were toddlers, nearly all were hospitalized and eight received liver transplants

“It’s still a very rare occurrence,” Butler said. “A majority of these cases have recovered and recovered fully.”

The mystery goes back to November, when Alabama health officials began looking into the first of nine cases of severe hepatitis in children in that state. None tested positive for the viruses that commonly cause hepatitis. However, testing was positive for adenovirus.

Butler said none of the Alabama children were vaccinated against COVID-19. That has been ruled out as a possible cause, “and we hope this information helps clarify some of the speculation circulating online.”

Symptoms of hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, joint pain and jaundice.

In addition to Alabama, the states reporting suspected cases: California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin. Puerto Rico also reported at least one case.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.