As if parents didn’t have enough to worry about with a pandemic and a formula shortage, there's now a hepatitis outbreak that's spreading across multiple countries, including the United States.

One child has now died and 17 have required liver transplants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent out an immediate release issuing a nationwide health alert in regards to this emerging health issue.

Upon hearing this, many people are flashing back to the beginning of 2020, when cases of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, started to emerge. While you may be thinking that you took precautions and got your children vaccinated against strains of hepatitis, these efforts will not protect against this mystery variant of the virus.

So what do we know about this version of hepatitis and what should parents be on alert for as cases continue to rise?

Who Has Been Impacted?

Photo by Hans Isaacson on Unsplash

First and foremost, Texas has not been impacted at this time. If you remember, back in October 2021, a hospital in Alabama reported five cases of serious liver damage and liver failure in children, all related to hepatitis and adenovirus. That number has now risen to nine.

More recently, North Carolina became the second state to report cases. Currently, there are a total of 11 children who have developed acute, severe hepatitis infections in the United States. However, officials are now investigating the possibility of three more cases in Illinois as of yesterday.

The impacted children are of school age, mostly under the age of 10, with some under the age of 5. All of the kids were previously healthy and came back negative for the A, B, C, D, and E strains of hepatitis. However, they were positive for adenovirus.

While cases are low in the United States at this time, they are much more prevalent in Europe, with over 100 children developing this illness in the United Kingdom.

What Exactly are Hepatitis and Adenovirus?

Adenoviruses are actually quite common. When a child develops croup, pink eye or a cold, it's an adenovirus. However, these infections can also be quite severe, and research has shown that they can cause cases of acute liver failure. Hepatitis, or the inflammation of the liver, can also cause this to occur.

As mentioned above, there are five known strains of this virus. Unfortunately, only two -- A and C -- can be cured. Moreover, at this time there are only vaccines available for hepatitis A and B. Health officials are stipulating that the current adenovirus strain and the hepatitis infections are linked in some way.

Symptoms to watch out for include diarrhea, vomiting, gastrointestinal upset, flu-like symptoms and fever. Children may also develop dark colored urine and jaundice.

How to Stay Healthy

As we all know, even the best efforts can still result in us getting sick. However, knowing that there is a mysterious illness spreading across the U.S., you can take precautions to better your child’s chances of staying healthy.

Wash Your Hands
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

First and foremost, both of these viruses are extremely contagious. If your child is sick, keep them at home from regular activities. Secondly, make sure that you and your kids are washing your hands regularly. As difficult as it may be, try to keep your little ones from touching their faces too much.

Additionally, a healthy diet and staying hydrated can help keep their immune systems strong. While this will not prevent illness, it can better their defenses if they do end up getting sick.

Sick Baby
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Finally, pay attention to your kids. Toddlers are not always able to articulate how they're feeling. If they suddenly lose their appetite, don't want their belly to be touched, have changes in their bowel movements with no dietary triggers or start exhibiting signs of an infection, take them to the doctor to get checked out.

Health officials are investigating this new illness and there's still a lot to uncover. Thus, be proactive with healthy hygiene habits and be conscious of you and your children's impact on others.

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