ILLINOIS (WEHT) – Illinois officials have been gathering more information on the hepatitis outbreak that is affecting kids.

On May 25, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced that it had received reports of a total of nine patients under investigation for severe hepatitis in children under ten years of age. This is up from three that were reported in April.

IDPH says the cases date back to January, and the most recent had symptoms in May. Two-thirds of the children tested positive for adenovirus, a common virus that typically causes cold- or flu-like illness. All of the afflicted children were hospitalized, and one needed a liver transplant. No deaths were reported. The IDPH update follows a recent briefing by the CDC about a total of 180 pediatric patients under investigation over the past seven months across the United States.

IDPH says it has been working with Illinois healthcare providers to figure out other suspected potential cases in the state and has asked providers to watch for symptoms and to report any suspected cases of hepatitis in children to local public health authorities. IDPH is working with local health departments to collect and send available viral specimens to CDC for further laboratory testing to look more closely at the virus genome and other potential pathogens, such as SARS-CoV-2.

These cases appear to have an association with adenovirus 41, although it has yet to be confirmed. The CDC said that symptoms of this strain of hepatitis could be:

  • fever
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • dark urine
  • light-colored stools
  • joint pain
  • jaundice

IDPH says adenoviruses spread from person-to-person and most commonly cause respiratory illness, but depending on the type, can also cause other conditions such as inflammation of the stomach or intestines like gastroenteritis, pink eye like conjunctivitis, or a bladder infection like cystitis.

IDPH says adenovirus type 41 typically presents as diarrhea, vomiting and fever, and it often has the addition of respiratory symptoms. While there have been case reports of hepatitis in immunocompromised children with adenovirus infection, adenovirus type 41 is not known to be a cause of hepatitis in otherwise healthy children.

CDC is asking physicians to consider adenovirus testing using PCR or NAAT on respiratory samples, stool or rectal swabs and whole blood for pediatric patients with hepatitis of unknown origin, and to report any possible cases of hepatitis of unknown origin to CDC and state public health authorities.

In addition, CDC is encouraging parents and caregivers to be aware of the symptoms of hepatitis, and to contact their healthcare provider with any concerns. CDC continues to recommend children be up to date on all their vaccinations, and that parents and caregivers of young children take the same everyday preventive actions that it recommends for everyone, including washing hands often, avoiding people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth.

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