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What you need to know about the new cluster of hepatitis cases in children Children's Wisconsin

What you need to know about the new hepatitis cases in children

The World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Wisconsin Department of Health Services have all released information about a new cluster of severe hepatitis in kids. And it’s been all over the news the last few days.

We know this can be alarming for parents and wanted to share what we know so far. It’s important to note that, as far as we know, this is a rare condition that does not impact most children.

What is it?

Before we dive into what these cases are, we need to understand what hepatitis is. Hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver. This can be caused by a variety of things, but often happens after someone has a virus. Hepatitis A, B and C are the most common viruses that cause hepatitis, and are well known in the United States.

So far, based on what we know about this cluster of hepatitis cases in kids, it is not hepatitis A, B, C, D or E. This means this is a new or unidentified type of hepatitis. At least 12 countries have reported cases of this in children age 1 month to 16 years.

What causes it?

While the cause of this hepatitis cluster is still being investigated, a number of these kids have also tested positive for adenovirus. More specifically, adenovirus type 41 is being investigated. Adenoviruses are common and typically cause mild cold- or flu-like symptoms in anyone of any age, any time of the year. Those who are immunocompromised are more likely to be impacted by adenovirus.

Is it related to COVID-19?

We don’t think this is related to COVID-19. The cause is still being investigated, but there’s a stronger connection to adenovirus than with COVID-19. This is not a result of COVID-19 vaccines as the vast majority of the kids who were impacted did not receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

What are the symptoms?

Signs and symptoms of hepatitis include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, joint pain and jaundice.

Adenovirus type 41 commonly causes diarrhea, vomiting and fever, and can often cause respiratory symptoms as well.

When should you call your doctor?

If you notice two or more of the symptoms listed about in your child, call your doctor. From the cases we’ve seen so far in the United Kingdom, kids are experiencing nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, then they develop jaundice.

If you notice jaundice, or the yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, you should take your child to the emergency department. Jaundice is an abnormal symptom that may be caused by issues with the liver.

How can we protect kids?

If what we suspect is true — this is caused by a virus — then all of the things we’ve gotten even more used to over the last couple years will help protect kids. The best way to protect from adenovirus is to be diligent about washing hands. And if your kids are still wearing masks, that will be protect them as well.

At Children’s Wisconsin, our teams will continue to monitor this cluster of hepatitis cases closely and share information when possible.

We encourage you to speak with your child’s pediatrician if you have questions or concerns.