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Probe of unexplained hepatitis in kids expands to 24 states, Puerto Rico

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Officials from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today that, following its alert 2 weeks ago, it has received 109 reports of unexplained hepatitis in young children from 24 states and Puerto Rico.In a related developments, the United Kingdom today—which first raised a red flag about the cases in mid-April—weighed in with an update, tallying more cases and adding past COVID-19 infection to the list of possible causes.Most kids recovered, but 5 diedAt a telebriefing, Jay Butler, MD, the CDC's deputy director of infectious diseases, said the cases have been reported over the past 7 months.

Of the sick children, 90% were hospitalized and 14% needed liver transplants. Five children died. Most children have recovered, though some are still hospitalized.More than half had confirmed adenovirus infections, though he emphasized that the virus might not be a cause of the hepatitis and that investigators are casting a wide net as they search for a cause.Butler said though hepatitis cases in health kids are rare, when they occur, it isn't unusual for the cause to be unknown.He said the illnesses are perplexing, because adenovirus 41, found in Alabama's patients and in some UK cases, doesn't typically infect healthy children.

Investigators are pursuing several possibilities, including a potential role for cofactors, such as a connection to earlier COVID-19 infection.

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