Six children in five Kentucky counties have hepatitis from unknown cause(s)

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Six cases of hepatitis from an unknown cause have been reported in Kentucky, in children between 8 months and 4 years old.

The cases, which are under investigation, have been reported in these counties: Jefferson, with two possible cases; Todd, Lyon, Bourbon and Meade, Sarah Ladd reports for the Louisville Courier Journal. 

Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver that is usually caused by a viral infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is not unusual for the cause of hepatitis in children to remain unknown, but a growing number of cases has prompted an investigation.

Nationally, health officials are looking into 274 potential cases of hepatitis with unknown origin in children in 39 states, according to the latest CDC data.

Health Commissioner Steven Stack said Thursday that while the cause is unknown, the cases are not related to the common causes of hepatitis or Covid-19 and could possibly be linked to the Type 41 adenovirus, which he described as a common virus that causes cold and flu-like symptoms.  He said two of Kentucky’s six cases have been linked to the adenovirus.

And while there is no cause for alarm at this time, Stack said. families with children who have yellow skin and eyes, vomiting and diarrhea and abnormal blood tests should seek medical care from a pediatric specialist in a timely fashion.

“This is not something for you to panic about, or to get excessively alarmed about but it is something for you to be careful about,” he said.

He added that while it’s important to get a diagnosis, there is no specific treatment for adenovirus and that severe cases could require hospitalization or ongoing evaluation from a pediatrician.

Stack said parents need to be aware that these are illnesses that can spread through the respiratory system or through body fluids and to take precautions.

“So for parents right now, the important thing is to constantly educate and train children to wash your hands, cover your cough, and make sure they’re vaccinated for all preventable diseases through the pediatricians office or the health department. And just to pay careful attention their child,” he said.

There have been 650 probable cases of hepatitis with unknown cause in children in 33 nations between April 5 and May 26 and at least 38 of them needed liver transplants and nine of them died, according to the World Health Organization.

Stack said none of the six children in Kentucky with this condition have needed liver transplants.

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