Hepatitis Outbreak May be Linked to Adenovirus Infections

Adenoviruses can live up to 30 days on contaminated surfaces

April 26, 2022

How can more effective cleaning have an impact on a worldwide hepatitis outbreak among children?

Hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver, is most often caused by a virus, such as the common adenoviruses. These viruses are spread through close personal contact, through the air, and by touching contaminated objects or surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. Adenovirus can live for up to 30 days on surfaces that have not been cleaned.

Thorough cleaning can help prevent the spread of infectious disease outbreaks, such as the current hepatitis outbreak. The World Health Organization on Saturday identified at least 169 cases of acute hepatitis in children from one month to 16 years old in an outbreak involving 11 countries including the United States. At least one of the children has died and 17 children have required liver transplants.

In most reported cases the children did not have a fever. The common viruses that usually cause acute viral hepatitis—hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D, and E—were not detected in any of these cases.

A nationwide alert sent out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed several of the affected children in the U.S. tested positive for adenovirus, in addition to testing positive for hepatitis. Adenovirus has also been confirmed in several of the European cases. 

The WHO said investigations into the cause of the hepatitis outbreak need to determine whether increased susceptibility in young children following a lower level of circulation of adenovirus during the COVID-19 pandemic led to the illnesses. Other factors could include the potential emergence of a novel adenovirus, as well as a SARS-CoV-2 co-infection.

“It is not yet clear if there has been an increase in hepatitis cases, or an increase in awareness of hepatitis cases that occur at the expected rate but go undetected,” the WHO said in a statement. “While adenovirus is a possible hypothesis, investigations are ongoing for the causative agent.”

Learn more about adenoviruses and their ability to spread quickly through various means, such as contaminated surfaces, in the video below.


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