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Hepatitis cases in children on the rise in Arizona

Posted at 8:14 PM, May 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 08:54:19-04

Health experts in Arizona are on the lookout for unexplained cases of hepatitis in kids.

According to the CDC, more than 100 children in 24 states have tested positive for the virus. Most of those patients had to be hospitalized and five of them have died.

In Arizona, the state's department of health told ABC15 it is tracking one case that may be linked to the outbreak in other parts of the world. However, that case has not been confirmed.

Still, health experts in the state are on high alert.

"I think we're going to see more cases in Arizona as well as around the world," said Dr. Shad Marvasti, the director of public health, prevention and health promotion at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix.

According to Marvasti, the virus causes the liver to become inflamed.

"The reason why the cases in children are mysterious is because we can't tie them to any known viruses or causes we usually see," Marvasti added.

Meantime, officials with Phoenix Children's told ABC15 they're seeing an increase in patients with hepatitis.

"We are seeing a slight increase in unexplained cases of hepatitis, and we are working within Phoenix Children's to gather that data," said Dr. Sheetal Wadera, Medical Director for Liver Transplantation at Phoenix Children's.

The hospital does not give specific case numbers. However, they did tell ABC15 they have seen some cases cause significant damage.

"We do see cases of hepatitis in children...we've seen it progress to liver failure," said Wadera.

In some cases, children may need to get a liver transplant.

According to the CDC, the adenovirus has been detected in some of these cases but not all of them. The adenovirus is a common virus that can cause cold- or flu-like symptoms.

"We have not seen association between hepatitis and adenovirus thus far at Phoenix Children's," said Wadera.

Marvasti said because the adenovirus can impact your respiratory system, wearing a mask may help.

Additionally, Wadera said parents that are concerned their child could have hepatitis should reach out for help.

"No need to freak out -- get to your pediatrician, your local urgent care or ER if you're concerned," she said.