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CDC investigating mysterious liver disease suspected of child deaths

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US health authorities are investigating more than 100 possible cases of a mysterious and serious liver disease in children, including five deaths.

About two dozen states have reported suspected cases after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an appeal to doctors to be on the lookout for surprising cases of hepatitis. The cases date back to the end of October in children under 10 years old. So far, only nine cases in Alabama have been confirmed.

This photo shows a disposable syringe with hypodermic needle, HEPATITIS B written on a white board behind. (Photo Illustration by Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images)
(Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“We’re casting a wide net to broaden our understanding,” CDC Dr. Jay Butler said Friday.


Butler explained that although the CDC “weaves a wide net” in its investigation, not all cases can be linked to the same cause.

“Investigators here and around the world are working hard to determine the cause,” Butler continued.

The cause of the diseases is unclear. Adenovirus was detected in half of the children, “but we don’t know if it is the cause,” he said.

There are dozens of adenoviruses, many of which are associated with cold symptoms, fever, sore throat and pink eyes. But some versions can trigger other problems, including inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Officials are exploring a link to a particular version that’s normally associated with gut inflammation.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a press briefing that infections in 25 states could be linked to a global outbreak of the disease that has killed several children. This week there have been 300 probable cases in 20 countries, according to the World Health Organization.

In the United States, 94% of children were hospitalized and eight received liver transplants.

“It’s still a very rare occurrence,” Butler said. “The majority of these cases have recovered and made a full recovery.”

CDC investigating mysterious liver disease suspected of child deaths

The father comforts a child who has a fever.

In April, the CDC issued a health advisory in response to the cluster of mysterious hepatitis cases in Alabama involving nine children.

The mystery dates back to November, when Alabama health officials began investigating the first of nine cases of severe hepatitis in children in that state. None tested positive for the viruses that commonly cause hepatitis. However, the test was positive for adenovirus.

CDC investigating mysterious liver disease suspected of child deaths

Woman checking sick girls throat

Butler said none of the Alabama children had been vaccinated against COVID-19. This has been ruled out as a possible cause, “and we hope this information will help clarify some speculation circulating online.”

Symptoms of hepatitis include inflammation of the liver, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, pale stools, joint pain, and jaundice .


Besides Alabama, states reporting suspected cases: California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio , Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin. Puerto Rico has also reported at least one case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


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