May 23, 2022 - Health

CDC scrambles for clues on children's hepatitis cases and deaths

A girl rubs sunscreen on her liver transplant scar.

Liviah Widders rubs sunscreen on her liver transplant scar in Mason, Ohio, earlier this month. She had viral hepatitis. Photo: Megan Jelinger for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The CDC is examining 180 reported cases of hepatitis of unknown origin in kids across 36 states and territories, including six cases that resulted in deaths, officials told reporters in a briefing.

Why it matters: CDC is still trying to tease out whether these are part of a true increase in hepatitis among kids — or if the cases were identified as the result of improved pandemic-era surveillance.

Be smart: The leading hypothesis for a root cause is adenovirus infections, which are common in childhood, officials said.

Zoom in: The CDC is scrambling to identify possible exposure history including to drugs, foods, or toxins, as well as scouring medical records for clues.

  • It's unlikely any increase is associated with COVID vaccination since the median age of kids affected is 2 years old, they said.

The bottom line: "Unfortunately, the illness in many of these patients is severe," Umesh Parashar, chief of the viral gastroenteritis branch at the CDC's Division of Viral Diseases said. "This is clearly a severe disease that we're taking very carefully for that reason."

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