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Health experts warn of hepatitis, adenovirus in children

According to the Wisconsin DHS, four hepatitis cases are under investigation
Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 6:12 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Health experts are advising parents to look for signs of hepatitis in their children after the state of Wisconsin issued a Health Advisory in connection to adenovirus infections and adenovirus in children.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is currently investigating four hepatitis cases in the state, including one that led to a hospitalization and one death. The death hasn’t been confirmed as a direct link to hepatitis.

This has been an issue globally. In the United Kingdom, more than 150 cases of hepatitis in children have been reported. In the United States, Alabama was the first to publicly note a spike in cases, currently reporting just under 20 hepatitis cases in children.

Dr. Gregory DeMuri, an Infectious Pediatric Disease Specialist at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, notes that this is nothing to make light of.

“On an individual basis, if a child does develop hepatitis, this can be very serious,” said Dr. DeMuri. “Some of the children in these reports have needed a liver transplant, which is a big deal and it potentially it could cause death.”

While nothing has been confirmed as a direct cause of hepatitis, health experts are closely monitoring a strain of adenovirus that has been seen in over 50 cases in the United Kingdom, according to Dr. DeMuri. The strain, adenovirus type 41, is a respiratory virus that typically causes breathing issues, vomiting, diarrhea and fever.

“That’s one of the concerns,” said Dr. DeMuri. “Has this virus mutated? Is this a new, more contagious version of it? Is this something new in and of itself? Are there other viruses that are causing this in some of the cases? Or is it all adenovirus? Those are all some of the questions that are still unanswered.”

Parents are encouraged to look for the signs of hepatitis, which causes liver inflammation. Common signs include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever and jaundice (yellowing in the eyes and skin).

“Basically, keep your eyes open for it and report it if you see it happening,” said Dr. DeMuri.

Dr. DeMuri says the CDC and DHS sent out these advisories in an effort to get the word out to the public. He also advises parents to check if their children received their hepatitis shots. Typically, the shots are administered before the age of two. However, he says it’s important to at least check and see if they’re up to date.

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