NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Hepatitis is known for causing inflammation in the liver. Although it’s a well-established diagnosis, doctors at Vanderbilt are noticing a concerning uptick in children.
“What we’re seeing right now is what we’d classify as severe hepatitis, where the liver seems more inflamed. We would usually see maybe two or three cases of this per year. And in the last six months, at least at Vanderbilt, we’ve seen about eight cases,” said Dr. Saeed Mohammad, Director of Pediatric Solid Organ Transplant Center at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital.
Over the last six months, the CDC reported 109 cases of hepatitis in children, including five deaths. The cause is what’s puzzling doctors.
Adenovirus, typically associated with colds and the flu, has been found in some but not all cases.
“Adenovirus usually doesn’t cause Hepatitis, it usually causes more things like upper respiratory infections, like cough and runny nose kind of thing. So that’s what makes it a little unusual,” Dr. Mohammad said.
According to Dr. Mohammad, patients at Vanderbilt have all been under the age of 10, with the majority under the age of six. Their liver enzymes have tested in the 2,000 and 3,000 range, much higher than the typical 30.
“They’re coming in usually jaundice, which means the whites of their eyes are yellow or their skin appears a little bit yellow,” Dr. Mohammad said.
Parents should also be on the lookout for symptoms such as fever, upset stomach and overall tiredness.
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Of the eight cases Vanderbilt has seen, all have recovered after four to five days in the hospital with follow-up care. In other cases, patients have needed liver transplants and doctors need to monitor patients for liver failure.
“Worldwide, there have been a number of cases that have needed transplants and those patients after transplant have survived, so that’s comforting to me. What’s odd for me is just the number of cases that have occurred in the last six months. And just for us to identify what is new about this virus or what’s causing so many new cases,” Dr. Mohammad said.
Currently, Vanderbilt is working to learn more about the virus and is in the process of creating a survey to send out to help with that surveillance.