HOUSTON — A hepatitis outbreak among children in the U.S. has doctors scrambling for answers.
According to the CDC, a 6th child has died from a recent outbreak of liver disease in children in the U.S. They said around 180 children have been affected by the disease.
Cases have been reported across 36 states, including Texas,
Dr. Luis Ostrosky, an infectious disease doctor with UT Physicians, said that in almost all of the cases reported, the patients tested positive for adenovirus.
“It’s one of the most frequent viruses we have out there,” said Dr. Ostrosky. “It’s a virus that causes gastrointestinal illness and upper respiratory symptoms, and it circulates year-round.”
He said doctors are looking at another possible connection. Many of the patients with hepatitis also tested positive for COVID-19.
Hepatitis refers to the inflammation of the liver. It can be caused by several different viruses, but the most common are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis A is found in the blood of an infected person and is highly contagious.
It can be spread through close contact with an infected person, or through eating contaminated food or drink.
Hepatitis B is a blood-borne disease that spreads through sexual contact, the sharing of drug syringes, or from a mother to a baby during birth.
There are vaccines that protect against both Hepatitis A & B.
Hepatitis C is also caused by a virus that’s spread through contact with blood from an infected person.
It is curable with prescribed treatment, but there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.
“The more pressing thing about Hepatitis C is that it’s an oncogenic virus, meaning it can cause cancer," said Ostrosky.
Signs of hepatitis include jaundice – the yellowing of the skin, or whites of the eyes – dark-colored urine, flu-like symptoms, and loss of appetite.
Since it can only be diagnosed through testing, Dr. Ostrosky advises parents and caregivers to be aware of the symptoms, especially jaundice.