SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Health officials say two Utah children have contracted the mysterious liver illness that has affected children around the world.
The Utah Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has confirmed two Utah children under the age of 10 were hospitalized for the illness — hepatitis — with no known cause. The two children have since fully recovered.
Hepatitis is a form of liver inflammation that can lead to severe illness, according to the CDC.
“There are many causes of hepatitis, but evaluation of these children did not find a clear source. While rare, children do get hepatitis and we don’t always know the cause,” said Leisha Nolen, state epidemiologist at DHHS. “We are working with local healthcare providers, public health departments, and CDC to understand if these children became sick because of the same factors causing increased hepatitis in children across many parts of the world. We encourage providers to report any suspect cases to public health for further investigation.”
The mysterious cases of children contracting hepatitis from an unknown source dating back to October 2021, when five children were identified with the illness in an Alabama hospital.
“The children had significant liver illness, including some with liver failure, with no known cause,” reports the CDC. “The five children tested negative for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C viruses and tested positive for adenovirus, a common virus that typically causes cold- or flu-like illness, or stomach or intestine problems.”
The children were all previously healthy before being admitted and ranged in age from one to six years old. Health officials suggest the illness may be related to an infection with adenovirus type 41, a virus that usually causes mild colds or stomach illnesses in children. Utah’s cases were identified by physicians and reported to public health. CDC officials are looking into 180 possible cases across the U.S. Most of the children were hospitalized, at least 15 required liver transplants and six have died.
More than 20 countries have reported hundreds more cases in total, though the largest numbers have been in the U.K. and U.S. So far, health officials are still stumped and are investigating the potential causes linked to contracting the mysterious hepatitis.
For now, all parents can do is monitor their children for any potential symptoms of liver inflammation including:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Light-colored stools (poop)
- Joint pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
Parents are also strongly advised to:
- Keep children up to date on all vaccinations
- Washing hands often
- Avoiding people who are sick
- Covering coughs and sneezes
- Teaching children to avoid touching the eyes, nose, or mouth
“We understand parents may be concerned,” said Cohen. “Call your child’s healthcare provider if you’re worried about their health or symptoms they may be having,” said Nolen. “Simple actions to protect your child and those around you include washing hands often, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home when sick, and keeping up-to-date on all vaccinations.”
To learn more about the illness and its symptoms, click here.