The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they are investigating 180 pediatric patients with hepatitis of unknown cause. The cases, which have included five deaths, have been reported in 36 states and territories over the last seven months.
The count of cases under investigation has increased since the CDC’s last update on May 5, when the agency said it was investigating 109 cases. But the agency said most of the newer cases are “backward” cases: The CDC’s investigation involves reported cases dating back to October 2021, and many of them are just being reported.
Hepatitis is characterized by an inflammation of the liver. The proportion of affected patients requiring liver transplants has decreased from 15% to 9% since May 5, according to the CDC. Earlier this month, the CDC reported that five children had died; the agency now says no additional deaths have been reported since February.
The CDC advises parents and caregivers to watch for symptoms, including jaundice in particular. They should contact their health care providers if they have any concerns.
The CDC is examining the possible causes of the cases. Adenovirus, a common virus that often causes mild cold or flu symptoms, has been identified in nearly half of pediatric patients with hepatitis. The CDC said other tests are underway to look at other “potential pathogens,” including the coronavirus.
“It is important to note that severe hepatitis in children remains rare,” the agency said.
The agency said it will begin posting weekly updates on the number of patients under investigation.