In what appears to be the latest medical threat bamboozling doctors in the US and Europe, public health officials in Europe and the US are investigating dozens of puzzling cases of severe hepatitis in young children.
The viruses that typically cause the illness – hepatitis A, B, C, D and E – have been ruled out in the cases in question, leaving doctors searching for the culprit, per NBC News.
And in several cases, the illness has been so severe that the children needed a liver transplant. Fortunately, no deaths have been reported (at least, not yet).
The WHO said Friday said that it was investigating 74 cases of “severe acute hepatitis” in children under age 13 in the UK and Northern Ireland. Three cases were also reported in Spain, the WHO said. It’s not clear when symptoms for most of the children began, but of the first 10 identified in the UK, nine got sick in March and one in January 2022.
Dr. Wes Stubblefield, district medical officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, said that all of the children he had seen with the mysterious illness were otherwise healthy. So far, doctors have been unable to find an “obvious link” between the children.
With all forms of common hepatitis ruled out, the current leading theory is that a different virus, called adenovirus type 41, is likely responsible, however, doctors said this set of symptoms is very unusual.
The CDC is working with the Alabama Department of Public Health to investigate the cases, and is reaching out to other state health departments to see if other cases exist.