Mysterious Hepatitis cases now in five Kentucky counties

Hepatitis B Vaccination
Posted at 9:29 AM, Jun 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-09 18:17:49-04

Six cases of a mysterious form of Hepatitis have been confirmed in Kentucky.

The cases—all of which were found in children four or younger—have been reported in Bourbon, Jefferson, Lyon, Meade, and Todd counties.

Kentucky's Public Health Commissioner, Dr. Steven Stack, explained that this specific type of hepatitis is affecting young kids.

"It's important to note that this is predominantly being found in younger children," said Stack. "And the current definition of children impacted by this are children under 10."

According to the World Health Organization, 650 probable cases have been reported in 33 countries. The group also reports that nine kids have died and at least 38 have needed a liver transplant.

"Sometimes, children require liver transplants because the disease becomes so severe. But, thankfully, in Kentucky, none of these individuals - none of these six children - have required a transplant," said Stack.

The cause of this mysterious form of hepatitis is unknown. Dr. Stack said there's no link to other common causes of viral hepatitis.

He emphasized that there's also no relation to COVID-19 or the COVID-19 vaccinations.

"In many of these children, they're under the age where they would have been eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine," said Stack.

Stack said there is a possible link to adenovirus type 41, which is the stuff that causes common colds.

"These viruses are not typically known to cause liver inflammation in healthy children," said Stack. "And all of these children, so far, who have had this inflammation of unknown origin are children who have been previously healthy."

Stack points out that it's not yet clear "whether there's been an increase in the overall number of children who are getting hepatitis."

"It's not unusual for some causes of hepatitis in children to remain unknown," said Stack.

So, Stack says there's no reason for panic. But he wants parents to be aware of the situation.

"For parents right now, the important thing is to constantly educate and train children to wash your hands, cover your cough, make sure they're vaccinated for all preventable diseases through the pediatrician's office or the health department," said Stack. "And to just pay careful attention to their child."

"If they have a minor illness, you don't need to go run to the doctor," added Stack. "But if they look like they have these symptoms - their eyes are turning yellow, their skin is turning yellow - or they just appear uncommonly sick, something more than a common virus - then they should go see their pediatrician."

Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Jaundiced skin and eyes (yellowing of skin and eyes)
  • Fever
  • Dark urine
  • Light-colored stool
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomit