YORK, Pa. — More than 600 children across 30 countries have been diagnosed with severe hepatitis since the beginning of April and over 100 of those cases were here in the United States. This recent outbreak is leaving doctors puzzled.
The reason why doctors are so confused by this outbreak is because hepatitis tends to be very rare in children, especially children under the age of 5, which is the age group that seems to be contracting the infection recently.
As a refresher, hepatitis is an infection in the liver that causes inflammation. It is caused by the Hepatitis A, B, or C virus, according to the CDC. Since the liver processes nutrients, filters the blood, and fights infections, when it is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected.
The cases of severe hepatitis have been reported in over 30 countries including the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Argentina. At least 38 children have needed a liver transplant, and nine have died, also according to the CDC.
Here in our area, health experts at WellSpan say they've seen a few cases of hepatitis in children, but nothing severe.
They say they don't know what is causing this disease in young children, but that there isn't much cause for concern.
"We're hearing about these things more now, but it's still very, very rare," Dr. Vinitha Moopen of WellSpan Family and Pediatric Medicine at Rothsville said. "There's no cause for panic or running to the doctor if there's a cold or stomach bug type presentation."
Doctors say parents should educate themselves on hepatitis symptoms, which include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, and joint pain.
Health experts don't believe cases here in the United States are going to rise as they have seen that cases in Europe have decreased and they expect that trend will happen here, as well.