Another child in the U.S. has died in connection with the mysterious cases of severe hepatitis that have been occurring among children around the country and the globe, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Friday.
Investigators learned of the additional death on Thursday, Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases for the CDC, told reporters during a phone briefing. Officials had previously reported that the deaths of five other children were under investigation in connection to the disease.
“Unfortunately, the illness in many of these patients is severe … and the extent of the injury to the liver can be quite extensive. And so, this is clearly a severe disease that we’re taking very carefully for that reason, and the proportion of these, despite treatment, do unfortunately die,” said Dr. Umesh Parashar, chief of the viral gastroenteritis branch at the CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases. As reported earlier this week, the CDC is now investigating at least 180 cases of severe hepatitis with unknown cause among children across 36 states and territories — an increase from the 109 cases that were reported earlier this month.
“This is an evolving situation and an ongoing investigation, but it’s important to note that severe hepatitis and children remain rare,” Butler said. Investigators continue to work to identify whether the outbreak represents a true increase in the number of severe hepatitis cases in children, or whether an existing pattern has now been uncovered, thanks to improvement in detection of these cases. “While rare, children do sometimes get serious hepatitis, and it’s not uncommon … for the cause to be unknown,” Butler added.
According to a report from Yahoo News, There is no evidence to suggest, so far, he said, that the word “spike” is appropriate to describe the current emergence of cases. “The question of whether or not this is something that has been ongoing for even longer, and we’re just recognizing that now I think is a very reasonable one. So, I think ultimately, really all we can say for sure at this point in time is we’re not seeing a dramatic increase in the number of cases,” Butler said
The “leading hypothesis” remains adenovirus, with evidence “accumulating” that it may have a role, though that exact role continues to be investigated. Also, under consideration is whether a prior infection of COVID-19 is playing a role, as well as the impact of mitigation measures, as many children have not been exposed to viruses in recent years due to quarantines, and thus, there may be a “catch-up” factor, Butler added.