Sixth death from hepatitis of unknown origin in the USA

Another death attributed to hepatitis of unknown origin, which mainly affects children, was recorded in the US, the sixth in total so far, the US health authorities announced on Friday, which counts 180 cases so far.

Many of the approximately 70 additional incidents from early May to this week are not recent, they said. Quite a few just mentioned afterwards.

The causes of these serious inflammations of the liver are still being investigated by scientists, underlined an official of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the main federal public health service of the country.

So far, the “key hypothesis” is that “adenovirus 41 plays an important role,” recalled Jay Butler, a CDC executive in charge of infectious diseases. Adenoviruses are generally prevalent, but until now it was not known how they could cause hepatitis in healthy children.

“Nevertheless, we continue to look at several other possible causes besides the adenovirus, including the question of whether prior infection with SARS-CoV-2 (the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 infection) may play a role,” he added. .

Less than 20% of cases of hepatitis of unknown origin were found to have been previously infected with SARS-CoV-2, Butler said.

However, the COVID-19 vaccines were removed from the list of possible causes: the vast majority of children who developed hepatitis were not vaccinated – they were too young to be vaccinated.

The median age of children with severe hepatitis is 2 years. The incidents are geographically scattered throughout the country. All 15 needed a liver transplant.

Parents are encouraged to be vigilant about the appearance of possible symptoms in their children (vomiting, deep urine, diarrhea, abdominal pain, jaundice …) and to contact their pediatrician if they are worried.

However, the incidents remain “rare” and “the data we have so far are reassuring,” Butler said. Surprisingly, there has been no increase in pediatric hepatitis cases compared to previous years so far, he explained.

Hundreds of cases have been reported worldwide, mainly in Europe. The United Kingdom has recorded the most (197) and is also working to verify the causes of the disease, specifically by organizing studies of children’s genes and their immune system responses.

Sources: AMPE, AFP

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