Rare, Severe Liver Damage Reported in Kids in U.S. and Europe

In Alabama, nine otherwise healthy children have developed severe hepatitis. Doctors have yet to pinpoint the cause

Examination Table in Doctor's Office
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Public health officials in Europe and the United States are investigating dozens of puzzling cases of severe hepatitis in young children.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The cause is often a virus, but the viruses that commonly cause the illness — hepatitis A, B, C, D and E — have been ruled out in the cases in question, leaving doctors searching for the culprit.

The World Health Organization on Friday said it was investigating 74 cases of severe acute hepatitis in children under age 13 in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. Three cases were also reported in Spain, the WHO said. It's not clear when symptoms for most of the children began, but of the first 10 identified in the U.K., nine got sick in March and one in January 2022, according to the WHO.

In the children in Alabama, symptoms have included diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Some developed jaundice, and blood tests showed signs of elevated liver enzymes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with the Alabama Department of Public Health to investigate the cases, and is reaching out to other state health departments to see if other cases exist.

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