Dr. Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director of infectious diseases, said during a briefing said the agency is investigating 109 cases of acute hepatitis, or liver inflammation, in 24 U.S. states and Puerto Rico. The cause of the outbreak is not yet clear, he stressed, adding that about half of the children had adenovirus infections, although Butler said the CDC doesn’t know yet if adenovirus is the actual cause.
Approximately 90 percent of the children required hospitalization, Butler said. Five have died so far, and more have required liver transplants, he added in the briefing.
Last month, the CDC issued a nationwide alert after nine acute hepatitis cases were discovered among children in Georgia. Since then, a number of state agencies have reported cases and several deaths.
Several days ago, the CDC issued a report saying that it found no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines caused the outbreak of hepatitis among children. None of the initial children in Abalama, the agency said, received the vaccine.
Meanwhile, other countries have reported similar outbreaks of hepatitis among children. On Friday, the UK Health Security Agency reported that (pdf) the country’s case count had risen to 163, dating back to early January, adding that 11 children have received liver transplants so far.
“Adenovirus remains the most frequently detected potential pathogen. Amongst 163 UK cases, 126 have been tested for adenovirus of which 91 had adenovirus detected,” said the agency. “Amongst cases the adenovirus has primarily been detected in blood.”
UK officials also ruled out the COVID-19 vaccine as a potential cause.
“There are fewer than five older case-patients recorded as having had a COVID-19 vaccination prior to hepatitis onset,” the report said, adding that most of the impacted children are too young to receive the shot. “There is no evidence of a link between COVID-19 vaccination and the acute hepatic syndrome.”
Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) told news outlets that there were at least 228 probable cases of hepatitis worldwide in at least 20 countries. That statement came before the CDC’s latest announcement Friday.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can be caused by a viral infection, alcohol, prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications acetaminophen, high doses of certain herbal supplements, toxins, and various medical conditions. Hepatitis viruses, which spread via bodily fluids, can also cause liver inflammation. The hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C viruses are also well known to target the liver.
Symptoms include abdominal pain—namely in the upper right part of the abdomen right below the ribs—dark-colored urine, light-colored stools, and jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.