Six U.S. children and one child in Mexico have died and approximately 180 other youths have been inflicted with hepatitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cause of the hepatitis outbreak remains a mystery.
These occurrences of the liver disease, which stretch back at least seven months, have impacted children in 36 U.S. states and territories. “The illness in many of these patients is severe, and the extent of the injury to the liver can be quite extensive,” Umesh Parashar, chief of the viral gastroenteritis branch at CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases, said in a statement. “And so, this is clearly a severe disease that we’re taking very carefully for that reason, and the proportion of these, despite treatment, do unfortunately die.”
As of May 23, 15 of the children reported to have a connection to the investigation have required a liver transplant, according to the agency. Additionally, there have been no reported deaths since February 2022, and the proportion of patients requiring liver transplants has gone down from 15% to 9% since May 5.
Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at CDC, notes that, of the 180 number being reported, not all cases are recent, and some may not even be linked to the current investigation, but no firm answers are available at this time.
Currently, there is no epidemiological link between the cases. “No common exposures or other patterns had been discovered,” Butler says, noting that CDC has run lab tests to examine the virus genome and other potential pathogens, such as SARS-CoV-2. Furthermore, the agency says that testing ruled out some of the viruses that commonly cause hepatitis.
“It’s important to note that severe hepatitis in children remains rare,” the agency said in a press release. “However, we encourage parents and caregivers to be aware of the symptoms of hepatitis—particularly jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin or eyes—and to contact their child’s healthcare provider with any concern.”
Some good news is that the majority of the children who were infected during the hepatitis outbreak have since fully recovered. CDC is continuing the investigation.