The CDC has issued an alert after they discovered a mystery hepatitis outbreak among dozens of kids in the United States and in the United Kingdom who have been hit with liver disease ‘because of weakened immune systems from lockdown’.
“Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that can be caused by viral infections, alcohol use, toxins, medications, and certain other medical conditions. In the United States, the most common causes of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C viruses ,” according to CDC documents that were updated on Friday.
On Thursday the powerful federal group issued a national alert to doctors saying that children are coming down with liver inflammation but the cause for the illness is not clear to them.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding its probe after scores of young children came down with severe liver inflammation, but did not have the viruses hepatitis A, B, or C that usually cause it.
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Inflammation is swelling that happens when tissues of the body are injured or infected. It can damage your liver. This swelling and damage can affect how well your liver functions.
Hepatitis can be an acute (short-term) infection or a chronic (long-term) infection. Some types of hepatitis cause only acute infections. Other types can cause both acute and chronic infections.
What causes hepatitis?
There are different types of hepatitis, with different causes:
Viral hepatitis is the most common type. It is caused by one of several viruses — hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D, and E. In the United States, A, B, and C are the most common.
Alcoholic hepatitis is caused by heavy alcohol use
Toxic hepatitis can be caused by certain poisons, chemicals, medicines, or supplements
Autoimmune hepatitis is a chronic type in which your body’s immune system attacks your liver. The cause is not known, but genetics and your environment may play a role.
Nine children in Alabama were afflicted, according to reports, but they didn’t have the common hepatitis virus, leading to confusion for all medical people as to the cause.
In the UK, 108 children have been stricken, with eight requiring liver transplants, yet the cause for the problem remains a mystery to them.
In the UK, researchers have speculated that kids may have weakened immune systems due to rounds of COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.
“However, the US cases of pediatric hepatitis are so far all in Alabama, a state that did not pursue the most stringent pandemic restrictions, deepening the mystery,” The Daily Mail reported.
In the Medical journal Eurosurveillance, a team led by Public Health Scotland epidemiologist Dr Kimberly Marsh said more children could be ‘immunologically naive’ to the adenovirus strains because of pandemic restrictions.
“On 31 March 2022, the Scottish National Health Service (NHS) Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) Health Board alerted Public Health Scotland (PHS) to five children aged 3–5 years presenting to the Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow with severe hepatitis of unknown aetiology within a 3-week period. The typical number of cases of hepatitis of unknown aetiology across Scotland would be fewer than four per year .”
This paper describes the initial investigation into the first Scottish cases and aims to raise awareness of this severe illness of unknown aetiology among young children.
They wrote: ‘The leading hypotheses centre around adenovirus — either a new variant with a distinct clinical syndrome or a routinely circulating variant that is more severely impacting younger children who are immunologically naive.
‘The latter scenario may be the result of restricted social mixing during the pandemic.’
Suspicion now centers on adenoviruses, a common family of mild infections. UK experts believe that weakened immunity from lockdowns plays a role. The alert warns doctor to be on the lookout for symptoms of unexplained hepatitis in kids.
In the alert on Thursday, the CDC said it is working with counterparts in Europe to understand the cause of the infections, and urged doctors across the country to report potential cases.
“Nine children were identified between October 2021 and February 2022, all of whom tested positive for adenoviruses, which cause cold-like symptoms: diarrhea; sore throat; fever; and can lead to conjunctivitis, bronchitis and pneumonia,” NPR reported.
Every patient also tested positive for hepatitis, inflammation of the liver that can lead to not just liver damage and, in the worst cases, even death. And though none of the patients died due to their ailments, two required liver transplants.
In light of these findings, the CDC is advising healthcare professionals to test for adenoviruses in pediatric patients diagnosed with hepatitis from unknown causes.
The World Health Organization was notified about similar cases in the United Kingdom earlier this month. Seventy-four cases of acute severe hepatitis with unknown etiologies were identified in the U.K. The patients tested negative for hepatitis A, B, C, D and E, however, some of the children tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and adenoviruses.