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Question

Is there a hepatitis outbreak in children?

Christine Waasdorp Hurtado, MD, FAAP

Answer

Public health experts are looking into cases of hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) among children that may be associated with a common type of virus. Clusters of cases have been identified in at least five U.S. states and several other countries.

The first U.S. cases were reported in several young children in Alabama with hepatitis, who also tested positive for adenovirus in blood samples. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert recommending that children with hepatitis, but no known cause, should be tested for adenovirus. Among the children who developed hepatitis, several have required liver transplant, and at least one has died.

How concerned should parents be?

This continues to be a rare complication of a common viral infection. It is unlikely your child will experience hepatitis associated with adenovirus or other acute respiratory illnesses.

What are the signs and symptoms of hepatitis?

There are many reasons the liver can become inflamed. Possible causes include infections, medications, toxins, alcohol use, drugs and, less commonly, other medical problems. Sometimes the cause remains unknown.

Symptoms of hepatitis can include:

  • Yellow skin or eyes (jaundice)

  • Dark urine

  • Light colored stools (pale)

  • Itchy skin

  • Fatigue (tiredness)

  • Fever >100.4° F

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Abdominal pain

  • Loss of appetite

  • Joint pain

It is also possible that children may not have any symptoms. Treatment of hepatitis depends on the identified cause.

What are signs and symptoms of adenovirus?

Adenoviruses spread through close contact, respiratory droplets and through the air. There are more than 50 types of adenoviruses that can infect people. Common symptoms include respiratory illness (common cold), stomach and gastrointestinal infections, conjunctivitis (pinkeye), cystitis (urinary bladder inflammation) and sometimes, neurological disease. There is no specific treatment for adenovirus infections.

How do I prevent adenovirus infections in my child?

If you are concerned about your child's symptoms, contact your pediatrician or seek care. Your pediatrician can discuss appropriate treatment and consider testing, which can be done on respiratory, stool or rectal swabs and blood.

Parents should always remind children that they can try to avoid getting sick by practicing good hand hygiene—washing with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer—and good respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette (coughing into an elbow).

Remember

Don't hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician if you have questions or concerns.

More information

Christine Waasdorp Hurtado, MD, FAAP

Christine Wassdorp Hurtado, MD, MSCS, FAAP, is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and North American Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition. She is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and practices in Colorado Springs.​​

Last Updated
5/6/2022
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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