Adenovirus link investigated after hepatitis outbreaks among children

After clusters of otherwise healthy children in the United States, Europe and Israel came down with severe hepatitis, health officials are investigating a connection with an adenovirus, one of a group of common viruses that can cause cold-like symptoms, as well as gastroenteritis, pink eye and other ailments, the CDC reported yesterday.

“The first U.S. cases were identified in October 2021 at a children’s hospital in Alabama that admitted five children with significant liver injury (including some with acute liver failure) without known cause, who also tested positive for adenovirus. Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C viruses were ruled out,” the CDC said. “Upon investigation, a review of hospital records identified four additional cases, all of whom had liver injury and adenovirus infection; laboratory tests identified that some of these children had adenovirus type 41, which more commonly causes pediatric acute gastroenteritis.”

The condition does not appear to be related to common exposures to any particular substance that might have caused the condition, the CDC said.

“None of the children died, but several developed liver failure and two required liver transplants,” The New York Times reported.

Adenoviruses have been known to cause hepatitis in immunocompromised children, but “it’s not typical for it to cause full-on liver failure in healthy kids,” Dr. Aaron Milstone, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center was quoted as saying by The New York Times. He said that it seems unlikely the condition would be related to COVID-19, but of course that has to be investigated.

The disease was reported in the UK earlier this year and has since also been reported in Israel, Denmark, Ireland, Spain and the Netherlands, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said. The ECDC said no link to the COVID-19 vaccine was found.

CDC is asking doctors to report any possibly relevant cases. They added that parents can take standard precautions against the adenovirus.

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