The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is asking doctors in the state to be on the lookout for possible cases of acute hepatitis after health officials found cases of severe liver damage in four children. In one case, a child required a liver transplant and in another, the child died.
Wisconsin is the fourth state to announce an investigation into the unusual circumstances surrounding the hepatitis cases. In the United States, at least 109 children in 25 states have been identified with cases, and of those, five have died. The World Health Organization reports more than 200 cases in 20 countries around the world.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can be caused by viral infections, alcohol consumption, toxins, medications and certain other medical conditions, according to Wisconsin DHS. In the United States, the most common causes of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, B, and C viruses.
According to Victor Uko, MD, Pediatric Gastroenterologist, Gundersen Health System, those who have contracted the disease so far have become very ill and required hospitalization. The most recognizable symptoms of hepatitis are abdominal pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and, above all, jaundice.
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“It’s an indicator of something going on,” Dr. Uko said of jaundice. “In some patients who usually have jaundice, they may have dark urine, lighter stools, etc.”
Wisconsin’s case count is low compared to other parts of the country, but Dr. Uko said he was concerned enough about the outbreak to be vigilant. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found in their investigation, the children who contracted the disease were previously healthy with no underlying conditions. Although this raises concerns among providers, Dr. Uko urges parents not to overreact.
“Hepatitis happens for a whole host of reasons, and more often than not it’s simple viral infections that get better,” said Dr Uko, who does patient outreach at the Gundersen Viroqua Clinic. “The key is early recognition.”
Dr Uko said that if parents see any of the symptoms mentioned and are concerned, they should first contact their child’s primary care provider as there are a host of other viral infections that can cause similar conditions. to hepatitis. If the child appears seriously ill and needs to be seen sooner, Gundersen emergency care would be another option.
Uko pointed out that early data shows no link between this disease and COVID-19 or its vaccines.
To make an appointment, call the Gundersen Viroqua Clinic at 608-637-8577 or La Crosse Pediatric Specialties at (608) 775-2599.