Hepatitis surge among children not a cause for alarm, doctor says

A recent surge in acute and severe hepatitis cases among young children has some growing more concerned.

"Hepatitis is just a general name of inflammation of the liver," Dr. Kerry Fierstein, CEO of Allied Physicians Group, said. "So this is a type of hepatitis that can be caused by a virus."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is researching a possible link between hepatitis and adenovirus, which most commonly causes respiratory illnesses. While medical experts try to explain the sudden outbreak, Fierstein wants to reassure parents there's nothing they need to do differently.

"If their child seems really, really, really sick — because someone with this type of hepatitis would be really, really, really sick — then need to talk to their doctor, which is something they'd do anyway," Fierstein said.

At least 169 cases of acute hepatitis among children across 12 countries have led to at least one death and 17 liver transplants, according to the World Health Organization.

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So far, in the United States, there have been nine cases of severe hepatitis among kids in Alabama and two cases have also been reported in North Carolina. Children affected range in age from one month to 16 years. Symptoms include stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice, and increased levels of liver enzymes.

"If your child is jaundiced, if their eyes are yellow, you'd be going to the doctor and the doctor would be doing the test," Fierstein said.

Health officials in the United Kingdom have ruled out the COVID vaccine as a possible cause. None of the British cases so far are in children who were vaccinated because of their young age. None of the cases in the U.S. were among vaccinated children either.

Keeping your distance from people who are sick and washing your hands are two ways doctors recommend protecting yourself.