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Minnesota investigates unexplained pediatric hepatitis as worldwide cases grow

The cases could be linked to adenovirus infection, though health officials still don't know what has led to roughly 200 hepatitis cases of unknown origin in young children around the world. Wisconsin reported the first possible U.S. death this week.

ADENOVIRUS.jpg
This 1981 transmission electron microscopic (TEM) image depicts a number of adenovirus virions. A spike in unexplained pediatric hepatitis cases first identified in 2021 may be tied to infection with adenovirus 41.
CDC/ Dr. G. William Gary, Jr
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MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Department of Health is investigating several cases of unexplained hepatitis in children, as cases of the disease continue to grow around the world.

Hospitals in Minnesota have reported several cases of hepatitis of unknown origin in pediatric patients, health department spokesman Doug Schultz confirmed Friday evening, April 29. The health department could not confirm where the cases were in Minnesota or the dates they were identified, citing health privacy concerns. Schultz said all the cases were in children younger than 12.

A pediatric physician at M Health Fairview in Minneapolis said an infant recently received a liver transplant for unexplained liver disease, KARE-TV in the Twin Cities reported Friday . There have been close to 200 cases worldwide so far, according to the World Health Organization. The first U.S. cases were identified in Alabama in October, and there have since been dozens more, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Infections have been found in children as old as 16 and 10% of cases have required a liver transplant, according to the WHO.

The CDC on April 21 issued a nationwide health alert for a spike in liver infections in children ages 1- to 6-years-old. Many patients tested positive for adenovirus infection, though it remains unclear if and how the infection is related to hepatitis.

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Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that can cause fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, and jaundice. It can be triggered by alcoholism and certain health conditions but is usually caused by viruses. The CDC said immunocompromised children can get hepatitis from an adenovirus infection, but the virus found in the recent unexplained hepatitis cases, adenovirus 41, has not been linked to hepatitis in otherwise healthy children before.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported four cases of unknown-origin hepatitis in children on Wednesday, April 27. One of the children needed a liver transplant and one died , officials said.

The Minnesota health department continues to investigate the origin of the cases, Schultz said in a statement. Earlier this week, state health officials asked hospitals to be vigilant for children showing signs of hepatitis.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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