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Mystery liver disease in children now found in six states, with one death being investigated

DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — New details on the mystery virus that is causing severe liver illness in children. A new study suggests what may be happening.

The first cases were reported in children in Alabama, and now six states and 11 countries are reporting cases with one case in the U.S. being investigated, resulting in death.

The new study based out of the U.K., where 111 cases have been reported, presents five different theories. Although Alabama health officials have studied the data from the U.K. Health Security Agency, they aren’t entirely convinced that any of the theories provide the reason behind the mystery virus.

The adenovirus, a common virus that usually causes cold-like symptoms, is the leading factor U.K health experts are investigating.

They believe the adenovirus is worse than normal due to children having limited exposure to viruses because of isolation during the pandemic. The isolation time didn’t allow children’s immune systems to build up necessary defenses.

“It is still a question as to whether or not what we have is related to what is going on in the U.K.,” Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health said. “Again, all we have is all the information that we have on these current cases.”

The study also suggests other theories, such as toxins or environmental exposures, a child’s prior infection with the coronavirus, including the omicron variant, a new COVID-19 variant, or a new adenovirus.

None of these theories have been ruled out and are being considered. Although experts can’t exactly link the cases in the U.S. to those in Europe, all children who have been infected with this mystery virus are younger than age 10.

“We still don’t have clear linkage other than the fact that we did have these kids test positive for a relatively common virus and five of them tested positive for sequencing 41, adenovirus,” Dr. Landers said.

The study suggests experts have ruled out five viruses that usually cause liver disease.

In addition to Alabama, cases now have been reported in Delaware, North Carolina, Illinois, Wisconsin, and New York. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, one of four cases under investigation resulted in a fatality, which would be the first death linked to the virus in the U.S.

At this time, experts say it’s important for parents to know the signs. If a child has symptoms of jaundice, the yellowing of the skin and eyes, medical attention should be sought right away.

“Parents are going to notice this, you are going to see this, you are going to notice this,” Dr. Landers said. “If your child is not getting better, go ahead and talk with your doctor.”

Medical professionals in Alabama said it’s still too early to tell what this virus is and will continue to monitor for any new cases. They urge parents to teach their children good hygiene practices such as hand washing and keep their children up-to-date on all immunizations.

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