TYLER, Texas — A mysterious strain of hepatitis is infecting children around the world and cases continue to rise.
Nearly all the children affected needed to be hospitalized and five children have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What's unusual is, according to CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, hepatitis isn't common in children. Yet, the World Health Organization (WHO) says more than 200 cases have been reported in 25 states.
Although no cases have been reported in Texas yet, it's important to know how and why this hepatitis outbreak is happening.
According to the CDC, hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver and when the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected.
"Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions can cause hepatitis," the CDC says. "However, hepatitis is often caused by a virus. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C."
But for this particular virus, the cause is still unknown. However, in a lot of these cases, children have tested positive for the adenovirus, a common virus that causes cold or flu-like illness, stomach or intestinal problems.
Some symptoms to look out for include:
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in the right upper area of the belly
- Lighter stools
- Darker urine
In some cases, it's been transmitted through coughing or runny nose, or even through contact with surfaces contaminated with the virus.
So what can you do to stay aware and protect your children?
Texas pediatric infectious specialist Dr. Summer Donovan suggests using "normal hygiene" in an effort to make "sure that you don't send your child to school sick."
She also said they think that adenovirus 41, which is more likely to cause severe stomach illness in children, is most likely the cause for hepatitis in children.
The CDC has issued a health alert concerning the growing issue and is working with public health officials around the world to determine the cause.