Mysterious childhood hepatitis outbreak reaches New Jersey

The epidemic of mysterious cases of hepatitis in children has spread to New Jersey.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating four pediatric cases in the Garden State that may be linked to acute liver disease, the state Department of Health said in a statement Wednesday.

The children studied are between the ages of 1 and 7 years old. All survived and did not need a liver transplant.

“All were previously hospitalized between October 2021 and February 2022, and all have recovered,” the statement said. “None of the children had a liver transplant. All of the children tested negative for COVID. There were no deaths. »

The mysterious illness has affected more than 110 children in nearly 30 US states. About 300 probable cases have been identified worldwide.

The cases have baffled medical experts.

The cause of the life-threatening liver inflammation is still unclear, but experts believe it could be linked to the adenovirus, which can cause the common cold.

Although serious, the disease remains rare.

“It’s a new phenomenon,” Vinod Rustgi, a distinguished professor of medicine and director of hepatology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine, told NJ Advance Media last week. “There have been clusters, but that’s by no means a very common occurrence, even with the number of cases that have been reported.”

Concerned parents should look for signs of fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Many children had jaundice – yellowing of the skin or eyes – and were found to have abnormally high levels of liver enzymes.

The state health department issued an alert in April advising healthcare providers to watch for suspected cases of hepatitis of unknown origin. The collected data was then sent to the CDC, which analyzed it to determine which cases met the criteria.

According to the CDC, five children have died from baffling liver disease in the United States, and 14% of patients required transplants. Its website shows 180 “people under investigation” for acute hepatitis in 36 states, although the agency notes that “PUI does not mean this person is a confirmed case.”

“States and CDC are reviewing extensively (including cases of hepatitis of unknown origin in children under 10, since October 2021), so this number may increase or decrease as CDC and States review medical records and learn more.”

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Spencer Kent can be reached at [email protected].

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