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Hepatitis in Children: What You Need to Know health beat 2022

To avoid illness, stay away from sick people. If you know someone who has a fever or cold, or has dry eyes or a runny nose, avoid contact with them. (for spectrum health beat)

Cases of hepatitis in children have recently increased across the United States, but only two such cases are currently under investigation in Michigan.

Although there’s no cause for concern yet, you should keep an eye on your children if they develop specific symptoms, said Rosemary Olivero, MD, a pediatrician at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

In children with severe symptoms, doctors are looking for increased liver enzymes due to liver inflammation or, in rare cases, liver damage.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a new alert and is monitoring more than 100 cases across the US

“We are seeing this mostly in young children between the ages of 1 to 6 years,” Dr. Olivero said. “At Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, we care for about half the state of Michigan. It’s very possible that we’ll have serious cases of hepatitis here at some point.

If a child shows signs of hepatitis, the doctor will conduct the appropriate labs and tests to see if a strain of adenovirus, a common respiratory virus, may be causing the inflammation of the liver, Dr. Olivero said.

She answered some of the most common questions about the condition and offered advice to parents.

What is causing this new symptom with hepatitis?

“The most likely viral cause is a strain of adenovirus, which is a very contagious and common virus that spreads in waves throughout the year,” said Dr. Olivero. “It can cause the common cold, pink eye, vomiting, diarrhea or pneumonia, and can also cause a high fever—and it can go on for a long time. Another thing this virus can cause is Increase in liver enzymes.

He said that viruses move in waves across the country, so it is certainly possible that this virus is among us right now.

She offers a note of reassurance for parents: The same virus will not affect every child equally.

“There is an interplay on how the body responds to a virus, and it will not always be present in hepatitis with serious liver consequences,” she said.

She also noted that COVID-19 is another virus that can increase liver enzymes. However, she does not believe that the two are linked in this recent influx of hepatitis.

How worried should parents be?

“I wouldn’t be overly concerned,” said Dr. Olivero. “We’re getting into that time of year where we’ll see fewer viral infections, because we’ll be outside and not indoors close to others for long periods of time.”

She also said that the disease appears to be extremely rare at the moment, with only about 100 cases across the US right now.

What signs and symptoms should parents pay attention to?

“Simply put, hepatitis is inflammation of the liver,” Dr. Olivero said. “The virus has an effect on the liver causing abdominal pain in the right side of the abdomen.”

In children, look for loss of appetite, diarrhea or vomiting, or any yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes. Fever is also quite common in these cases, she said.

How can parents and children avoid getting sick?

“Stay away from others who are sick,” said Dr. Olivero. “If you know someone who has a fever or a cold, has teary eyes or a runny nose, avoid contact with them.”

He also stressed on the importance of good hand hygiene.

“Wash your hands and wipe down your grocery cart before shopping,” she said. “We are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the precautions we take to stay healthy will work for many viruses.”

What does life look like after having hepatitis?

“Acute viral hepatitis is usually reversible,” Dr. Olivero said. “However, if the liver is not working properly, your child will need to stay in the hospital until the liver is healed.”

He said that the liver is an organ of lesser importance in the body. It works as a cleaner of the blood stream and metabolizes many things that are put into our body. It also creates clotting factors for the blood if you get a cut.

“Very rarely will a case be irreversible where a liver transplant may be needed,” she said.

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