Two young Utah children may be part of the mysterious hepatitis outbreak that has puzzled public health officials globally.
The Utah Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday said health care providers had not been able to identify the cause of the liver inflammation for which the children, both younger than 10, were treated.
The children have both recovered after being hospitalized with serious liver illness, health officials said.
“There are many causes of hepatitis, but evaluation of these children did not find a clear source. While rare, children do get hepatitis and we don’t always know the cause,” said Leisha Nolen, state epidemiologist, in a news release. “We are working with local health care providers, public health departments, and CDC to understand if these children became sick because of the same factors causing increased hepatitis in children across many parts of the world. We encourage providers to report any suspect cases to public health for further investigation.”
Experts believe the unexplained hepatitis cases — seen in several U.S. states and across a number of countries — may be related to adenovirus type 41 infection. As the Deseret News has previously reported, that strain of adenovirus usually causes mild colds or stomach distress in children. Liver inflammation in children who do not have immune-compromising conditions has been uncommon.
The department said the Utah cases were flagged by the treating physicians and public health officials were informed. Because of patient privacy laws, no further information is available.
“We understand parents may be concerned. Call your child’s healthcare provider if you’re worried about their health or symptoms they may be having,” Nolen said.
Six children in the United States have now died of hepatitis, USA Today reported this week.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the sixth death last week. The CDC said the outbreak of the liver disease has expanded to 180 reported youth patients across 36 states and territories over the past seven months,” the article said.
That’s an increase of 71 cases in two weeks, but the CDC said the count includes “retrospective” patients who could have been ill much earlier.
Most of the outbreak involves really little kids getting very sick, Nolen told the Deseret News in early May.
“The most prominent thing is they come in with vomiting and diarrhea. But I think most parents know vomiting and diarrhea are very common in little kids. Most of the time, that’s nothing and I don’t think parents need to be concerned,” she said.
Health experts say parents should watch for jaundice — a visible though sometimes slight yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, which indicates liver problem. Other symptoms include nausea, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, stomach pain, joint pain, vomiting, dark urine and light stools.
Parents and children are being cautioned to wash their hands often, cover coughs and sneezes, stay home when sick and keep current on vaccinations as a way to help prevent the spread of illness.
To learn more visit the CDC’s website.