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CDC issues nationwide health alert over mysterious liver disease in children

CDC issues health alert for cluster of Hepatitis cases in children 02:16

OAKLAND, N.J. - The CDC issued nationwide health alert Friday after a cluster of mysterious cases of hepatitis in kids. 

Physicians are now being told to be on the lookout for severe inflammation of the liver in children. 

CBS2's Alice Gainer spoke with doctors to learn more. 

Nine kids between the age of 1 and 6 in Alabama were diagnosed with hepatitis or liver inflammation and infection with adenovirus. 

Two needed liver transplants. 

All were previously healthy. 

"What was odd was just the frequency of how often these children were coming and the fact that each one of them tested positive for adenovirus. So it was just kind of odd," said Dr. Henry Shiau of UAB Children's Hospital. 

It happened this past October through February. 

North Carolina is also reporting two cases. 

The cause is unknown, but health officials are investigating a possible link to adenovirus, which can cause mild to severe respiratory illness, fever, sore throat and pink eye. 

Several cases were positive for a specific adenovirus which can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. 

"Adenovirus type 41, as far as we can tell, has never been associated with significant liver injury. In all of these children did have or most of them had GI type symptoms... and then developed hepatitis on top of it," said Dr. Wes Stubblefield of Alabama Department of Public Health.

So now the CD is alerting doctors and public health authorities to be on the lookout. 

The health alert notes: "While there have been case reports of hepatitis in immunocompromised children with adenovirus infection, adenovirus type 41 is not known to be a cause of hepatitis in otherwise healthy children."

"Now, all of a sudden, when you have a virus changing behavior and infecting healthy children, it sets off alarm bells," said Dr. Stavros G. Christoudias, chairman of the board of the New Jersey Doctor-Patient Alliance.

Christoudias is a general surgeon in New Jersey, and says this alert comes with more testing and reporting, which will help piece together what's going on.   

"Do the children have something different about them? Is there a commonality about them? An exposure? A medication? Even a genetic predisposition?" he said. "Or the more scary prospect: Did the virus change?" 

Christoudias explains what parents should look out for. 

"Particularly dark urine, particularly lighter stools. If you have these symptoms in your child, bring them to your pediatrician immediately," he said. 

A way to prevent adenovirus, he advises, is good hygiene that includes hand washing. 

The hepatitis cases were first identified in Britain. There have been 74 since January, with 10 in Scotland. 

Health officials in Alabama say none of children had history of recently being infected with COVID-19, and none of them had been vaccinated against COVID-19.   

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