CDC issues national health alert about mysterious hepatitis outbreak Alabama kids

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is issuing a national Health Alert Network Health Advisory to notify clinicians and public health authorities of a cluster of children identified with hepatitis and adenovirus infection.

Clinicians at a large children’s hospital in Alabama notified CDC of five pediatric patients with significant liver injury, including three with acute liver failure, who also tested positive for adenovirus. All children were previously healthy and none tested positive for COVID-19. Nine total patients were admitted from October 2021 to February 2022 with adenovirus and hepatitis infection, and none of the patients died, CDC stated. 

A possible association between pediatric hepatitis and adenovirus infection is currently under investigation, CDC stated. Cases of pediatric hepatitis were previously reported earlier in the month in the United Kingdom, including some with adenovirus infection.

The Health Advisory is aimed at notifying clinicians in the U.S. who may encounter patients with hepatitis of unknown etiology to consider adenovirus testing and to report such cases to state public health authorities and the CDC. 

The cases were in children ages 1 to 6 and the children were from across Alabama, with officials finding no epidemiological link connecting them. 

Alabama health officials stated a case had been identified in another state but neither state or federal officials provided any additional details. 

Symptoms of hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, joint pain and jaundice.

Adenovirus is a family of viruses that cause a wide range of infections, most commonly respiratory illnesses, but can also cause inflammation of the stomach, with the viruses rarely containing hepatitis. 

“At this time, adenovirus may be the cause for these, but investigators are still learning more, including ruling out other possible causes and identifying other possible contributing factors,” the CDC said in a statement.

Hepatitis can be triggered by a variety of factors, from toxic chemicals to autoimmune disorders and viruses that cause chickenpox and the common cold. The most common causes of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, B, and C viruses. Those common causes have been ruled out in the Alabama children, the CDC said. They have also been ruled out in the U.K. children, authorities there said.