The World Health Organization said it is investigating an outbreak of acute hepatitis among children that now involves 11 countries, including the United States.
Among the 169 reported cases, at least one child has died from this inflammation of the liver and 17 children needed liver transplants, the WHO said Saturday in a statement.
Of the cases WHO is monitoring:
- A common cold virus known as an adenovirus was detected in at least 74 cases
- 20 of those tested revealed a COVID-19 infection
- 19 had a co-infection of COVID-19 and adenovirus
“It is not yet clear if there has been an increase in hepatitis cases, or an increase in awareness of hepatitis cases that occur at the expected rate but go undetected,” the WHO said. “While adenovirus is a possible hypothesis, investigations are ongoing for the causative agent.”
The symptoms “among identified cases is acute hepatitis with markedly elevated liver enzymes,” the statement added.
What causes hepatitis?
Hepatitis is typically caused by a virus. Adenoviruses are common, can spread between people and can cause people to be mildly or severely ill. Among these recent infections, adenoviruses have been detected in at least 74 cases, but they typically don’t cause severe hepatitis in healthy people. The common viruses that cause acute viral hepatitis, including hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D and E, have not been detected in any of these cases, according to the WHO.
While most of the children did not have a fever, many reported gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting “preceding presentation with severe acute hepatitis,” as well as increased levels of liver enzymes and jaundice, CNN reports.
Most of the 169 cases were reported in