May 24, 2024

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has issued a health alert highlighting a concerning rise in cases of hepatitis and adenovirus in otherwise healthy children in the U.S. and multiple other nations. The department said it’s investigating “at least four similar cases” in Wisconsin, including two children who had “severe outcomes,” one child who had a liver transplant, and another who died.  

The department did not provide additional details on the cases. If the children are confirmed to have hepatitis and adenovirus, the Wisconsin child who died would be the first known death in the U.S. linked to the mysterious cases.

The announcement comes following several warnings from major health organizations, including the CDC and the World Health Organization, about clusters of children infected with hepatitis. More than two dozen cases of severe hepatitis have been reported in at least seven states, and cases have also been reported in countries including Scotland, the United Kingdom, Spain and Ireland. 

Since October 21, 2021, the state of Alabama has reported nine cases of hepatitis in children between 1 and 6 years old without a known cause. All nine of those children also tested positive for adenovirus. Two patients required a liver transplant, but none of them died. 

Wednesday’s alert asks clinicians who find pediatric patients with hepatitis that does not have a cause to consider testing them for adenovirus and report potential clusters directly to the CDC. 

According to the CDC, hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can be caused by multiple factors, including viral infections, alcohol use, toxins, medications and certain other medical conditions. The CDC said signs and symptoms of the illness can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, joint pain and jaundice. 

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