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What to Know: CDC Update on Acute Hepatitis Cases in Young Children

Cases are rare, CDC investigation is ongoing

May 20, 2022

The CDC continues to investigate rare but severe cases of hepatitis from an unknown cause that have been reported in children in 36 states, including Pennsylvania.

This week, the nation’s public health officials provided another update on the 180 reported cases of acute hepatitis in pediatric patients that have been reported during the past seven months.

“It’s important to note that this an evolving situation, and we’re casting a wide net to help broaden our understanding,” Jay Butler, MD, deputy director for infectious diseases, said earlier this month.

Here’s the latest from the CDC:

  • Status update:  Investigators continue to look into possible causes for the reported cases of acute hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver. The majority of the 180 reported cases are retrospective and some date back to as far as October 2021.
  • Looking for a cause:  Adenovirus has been detected in nearly half of the children with acute hepatitis, but more research is needed to better understand the cause of the reported cases.
  • Symptoms:  Severe hepatitis in children remains rare. Symptoms can include vomiting, dark urine, light-colored stool, and the yellowing of the skin or eyes.
  • Severity:  There have been no reported deaths since February 2022, and the proportion of children requiring liver transplants has declined from 15 percent to 9 percent since May 5
  • Quotable:  “We know this update may be of concern, especially to parents and guardians of young children,” Butler said. “It’s important to remember that severe hepatitis in children is rare.”

HAP encourages parents with questions about acute hepatitis in children to contact their health care provider for more information. HAP will continue to monitor the latest public health developments and provide updates to members and the general public.

The CDC’s latest clinical guidance is available online.