The CDC is clueless as hepatitis continues spreading, claiming a sixth victim.
Infectious disease experts are scrambling for answers after a sixth child died from a mysterious hepatitis outbreak. Health officials learned of the additional death on Thursday, Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases for the CDC, told reporters during a phone briefing.
“Unfortunately, the illness in many of these patients is severe … and the extent of the injury to the liver can be quite extensive. And so, this is clearly a severe disease that we’re taking very carefully for that reason, and the proportion of these, despite treatment, do unfortunately die,” said Dr. Umesh Parashar, chief of the viral gastroenteritis branch at the CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases.
“Not all are recent, and some may ultimately wind up not being linked to this current investigation,” the CDC said in a statement. The agency said testing ruled out some of the viruses that commonly cause hepatitis.
In just two weeks the number of cases jumped by 71, but it’s believed that those were “retrospective” patients who may have been ill weeks or months earlier totaling 180 youth patients across 36 states and territories over the past seven months.
During a briefing, Butler said there appeared to be no common exposure or other patterns discovered as of yet. Lab tests are conducted to look more closely at the virus genome and other potential pathogens, such as Covid.
Melissa Nolan, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health, told USA TODAY the outbreak is almost certainly not related to the Covid vaccines.
“The fact is that a large number of cases involve kids less than 5 (years old) who were not eligible for the vaccine,” Nolan said. “It’s not a bad batch.”
“It’s not common to see severe liver damage from an adenovirus,” she said. “This could be a new form of adenovirus. Or it could be something completely new.”
“However, we encourage parents and caregivers to be aware of the symptoms of hepatitis – particularly jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin or eyes – and to contact their child’s health care provider with any concern,” the CDC said.
Out of the 180 children who have fallen ill in the U.S., 15 have required a transplant according to officials.
Parents who are concerned are encouraged to be on the lookout for signs of vomiting, dark urine, light-colored stool, and yellowing jaundiced skin, and to contact their pediatrician if they witness these symptoms and have concerns about a possible hepatitis infection.