Seven more cases of severe hepatitis have been detected in California and a child has died in Wisconsin as the mysterious disease spreads across the country.
The California Department of Health said it detected the cases in “young” children, all of whom had fallen ill since October.
That brings the US total of suspected hepatitis cases to 27, with the condition now spotted in seven states – mostly east of the Mississippi River.
Wisconsin is the only state to report a suspected childhood death due to hepatitis. If confirmed, it will be the first in the country and the second in the world. State officials confirmed to DailyMail.com that the child developed the disease after being infected with the adenovirus.
Cases of this particular disease have already been spotted in Alabama, North Carolina and Delaware. Health chiefs in Illinois and New York are currently investigating reports of similar events.
The cause of the mysterious illness remains a “mystery,” said President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
But experts have raised concerns that lockdowns weakening immunity in children or even Covid infections could be to blame.
Nearly 200 children have been sickened by the disease across the world in up to 14 countries. At least 18 needed liver transplants.
Nearly 200 children have been sick across the world in up to 14 countries since last October * cases in Canada, Japan and Wisconsin, Illinois and New York have yet to be confirmed
Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said the cause of the illness is ‘still a mystery’
The California Department of Health said it was unclear if adenovirus – which commonly causes the common cold – was the cause of the illnesses, or if the cases were linked.
Doctors have been left baffled by what’s behind the surge of cases – with the usual hepatitis A, B, C, D and E viruses being excluded from lab test results.
Health chiefs believe the disease may be triggered by an adenovirus, which commonly causes colds.
Dr Fauci told Bloomberg: ‘It’s still a mystery. It seems to be associated with adenovirus, but it’s not a slam dunk.
Alabama was the first state to report cases of severe liver damage two weeks ago.
Nine children were hospitalized in the state between November and February.
Three had acute liver failure and all children tested came back positive for adenovirus.
Two liver transplants were required, but all survived.
North Carolina identified two cases last month, with both children recovering. Neither had adenovirus.
Delaware reported this week that a child under the age of five was hospitalized with the same mysterious hepatitis. They are still under treatment.
A child has now been confirmed dead in Wisconsin, with officials revealing they are investigating whether their liver damage was linked to the same cluster of cases.
Wisconsin DHS said: “Since being made aware of this cluster of adenovirus-associated hepatitis, DHS is currently investigating at least four similar cases in children in Wisconsin.
“This includes two children who had serious consequences, a liver transplant and one death.”
The child who died and the child who required a liver transplant are confirmed to have been infected with the adenovirus.
Illinois officials said they identified three probable cases of severe hepatitis on Monday and a child in need of a liver transplant.
Dr. Tina Tan, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, said the cases are most likely caused by a virus because they appear in clusters.
She told Bloomberg: “What’s most unusual about all of this is that adenovirus doesn’t usually cause severe hepatitis in children without underlying health conditions.”
And New York state health officials revealed yesterday that they are investigating a case that appears to match descriptions of the mystery illness.
The condition – which was first spotted in Scotland at the end of March – has been detected 114 times in Britain.
Covid lockdowns could be behind the mysterious surge in childhood hepatitis cases as it reduced social mixing and weakened their immunity, experts say
Investigations are ongoing, but authorities have not yet ruled out that a new variant of Covid is to blame.
Another theory is that the children might have fought adenovirus at the same time as Covid.
British health officials have ruled out the Covid vaccine as a possible cause, with none of the sick British children having been vaccinated due to their young age.
Liver experts described the spate of cases as ‘worrying’ but said parents shouldn’t worry about the disease affecting their children.
Q&A: What is the mysterious global hepatitis epidemic and what is behind it?
What do we know about the global hepatitis epidemic?
Scientists have been baffled by a global hepatitis epidemic that has resulted in two deaths and more than a dozen liver transplants.
Inflammatory liver disease has been identified in at least 169 children aged one month to 16 years.
None of the cases were caused by one of the five typical strains of the virus – hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that is usually caused by a viral infection or liver damage caused by alcohol consumption.
Hepatitis often has no noticeable symptoms, but it can include dark urine, pale gray feces, itchy skin, and yellowing of the eyes and skin.
Infected people may also experience muscle and joint pain, high temperature, feel and be sick, and be abnormally tired all the time.
When hepatitis is transmitted by a virus, it is usually caused by eating food and drink contaminated with the feces of an infected person or by blood or sexual contact.
In how many countries have cases been recorded?
less than five
Number not specified
*cases in Canada, Japan and Illinois, USA, are yet to be confirmed
Do we know what lies behind the epidemic?
Experts say the cases may be linked to a virus commonly associated with the common cold, but more research is ongoing.
This, in combination with Covid infections, could be behind the spike in cases.
Adenovirus reported by WHO was detected in at least 74 of the cases. At least 20 of the children have tested positive for coronavirus.
British experts investigating the wave of illness believe the endless cycle of lockdowns may have played a contributing role.
The restrictions may have weakened children’s immunity due to reduced social mixing, leaving them at increased risk of adenovirus.
Public Health Scotland researchers have said more children may be ‘immunologically naïve’ to the virus due to the restrictions.
Other scientists have said it may be a virus that has acquired ‘unusual mutations’.
This would mean that it might be more transmissible or better able to circumvent children’s natural immunity.
New Covid Variant
UKHSA officials included “a new variant of SARS-CoV-2” in their working hypotheses, when discussing the variant at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Lisbon.
The UKHSA noted that Covid along with other infections and environmental triggers are still being probed as possible causes of illnesses.
The agency has ruled out the Covid vaccine as a possible cause, with none of the UK cases so far having been vaccinated due to their age.