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CDC launches investigation into nine cases of ‘severe’ hepatitis detected in children in Alabama – 74 case outbreak detected by UK officials

  • Nine children — all under six years old — have been struck down by hepatitis
  • CDC bosses are investigating the causes of the cases, which are rare in children
  • Hepatitis is normally triggered by its namesake viruses A to E, experts say
  • But officials are probing if adenoviruses – behind common cold – were the cause
  • Alabama health chiefs said at least five children tested positive for adenoviruses
  • U.S. is now the third country to report the illness, cost of lasix medication behind Spain and the UK 

A virus which causes the common cold may be behind a string of hepatitis cases in Alabama, health officials say.

Nine children — all under six years old — have come down with severe cases of the inflammatory liver condition since October. At least one suffered acute liver failure.

In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched an investigation into the potential cause.

The condition is normally triggered by hepatitis viruses A to E, but officials are thought to have already ruled this out. 

They are instead focusing on adenoviruses — one of the causes of the common cold — which five of the patients have so far tested positive for.

At least one other case has been detected in another un-named U.S. state, the Alabama Department of Health says.

The U.S. is now the third country in the world to report the mysterious hepatitis, after the UK and Spain recorded 74 and three cases in under-10s over this week. 

None of the children in the UK have tested positive for any of the hepatitis viruses.

Nine children — all under six years old — have come down with severe cases of the inflammatory liver condition since October. Adenovirus is thought to be behind the mysterious hepatitis cases (Pictured: A stock image of a virus) 

Alabama health officials have not revealed where the cases were detected, but are now searching for other victims in the area and in neighboring states.

There are no links between the nine children, and none had underlying health conditions putting them at risk from hepatitis. 

A CDC spokeswoman said the agency ‘is aware of and working with the Alabama Department of Public Health to investigate nine cases of hepatitis in children — ranging from one to six years old — who also tested positive for adenovirus since October 2021.

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that is usually caused by a viral infection or liver damage from drinking alcohol.

Short-term hepatitis often has no noticeable symptoms.

But if some develop they can include dark urine, pale grey-coloured poo, itchy skin and yellowing of the eyes and skin.

They can also include muscle and joint pain, a high temperature, feeling and being sick and being unusually tired all of the time. 

When hepatitis is spread by a virus, it’s usually caused by consuming food and drink contaminated with the faeces of an infected person or blood-to-blood or sexual contact.

Source: NHS 

‘CDC is working with state health departments to see if there are additional U.S. cases, and what may be causing these cases.

‘At this time adenovirus may be the cause for these, but investigators are still learning more — including ruling out the more common causes.’

Karen Landers, a district medical officer at the Alabama Department of Public Health, said five of the children had tested positive for adenoviruses.

She warned it was ‘not common’ to diagnose cases of severe hepatitis among children, telling Stat News that ‘seeing children with severe [hepatitis] in the absence of severe underlying health problems is very rare.

‘That’s what really stood out to us in the state of Alabama.’

Helena Gutierrez, medical director of the pediatric liver transplant program at Alabama University, told the website the children had the ‘full spectrum’.

‘We have seen a full spectrum of cases from severe hepatitis to acute liver failure,’ she said.

Adenoviruses are a family of common viruses that usually cause a range of mild illnesses — including colds, vomiting and diarrhea — and most people recover without complications.

While they do not typically cause hepatitis, it is a known rare complication of the virus. 

The U.S. detected 12 cases of hepatitis involving adenovirus in 2017, with patients including eight children.

Britain has detected 74 mystery hepatitis cases so far among under-10s, officials revealed on Tuesday, all picked up in hospitals across the country.

Health chiefs in the country say adenovirus may be ‘one of the possible causes’, although they are still investigating other potential factors.

Spain announced it had detected three cases among under-7s the following day, with one leading to a child needing a liver transplant, reports El Pais.

Dr Meera Chand, director of emerging infections in the UK, said normal hygiene measures such as handwashing and respiratory hygiene can reduce the spread of the infections.

She added that parents and guardians should be ‘alert’ to signs of hepatitis and contact a health professional if they are concerned. 

Hepatitis often has no noticeable symptoms — but they can include dark urine, pale grey-colored feces, itchy skin and the yellowing of the eyes and skin.

Infected people can also suffer muscle and joint pain, a high temperature, feeling and being sick and being unusually tired all of the time.

When hepatitis is spread by a virus, it’s usually caused by consuming food and drink contaminated with the feces of an infected person or blood-to-blood or sexual contact. 

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