Rare Hepatitis Illness in Children: What You Need to Know

Updated April 25, 2022

On April 21, 2022, the CDC issued a Health Advisory to notify clinicians and public health officials of clusters of children with rare cases of hepatitis in the southeastern United States. Additionally, young children in Europe were also identified. One common factor was that some children had an infection with a well-known virus called adenovirus. Most of the children were younger than 6 years of age when they were ill between November 2021 and February 2022.

Children’s has not cared for an increased number of children with severe liver disease or adenovirus-induced hepatitis, but we are closely monitoring the situation. Children’s has cared for many children who have had an adenovirus infection (without hepatitis) who have recovered completely.

What Is Known About the Children With Hepatitis

  • Almost all children were previously healthy and under the age of 5
  • None of the children had received a COVID-19 vaccination before they became ill
  • Several patients tested positive for one type of adenovirus, type 41

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, and can be caused by viral infections, alcohol use, toxins, medications and certain other medical conditions.

Learn More About Hepatitis

The main symptoms of hepatitis include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin)
  • Dark colored urine

Other accompanying symptoms could include:

  • Light-colored stools
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

What is adenovirus?

Adenoviruses can cause many common illnesses that usually affect the respiratory or gastrointestinal systems.

Different types of adenoviruses can cause different symptoms including:

  • Cold and flu-like symptoms
  • Pneumonia
  • Sore throat
  • Pink eye
  • Bronchitis
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, nausea
  • Fever

When to Contact a Pediatrician

You should contact your child’s pediatrician if they:

  • Are unable to drink fluids, do not have tears when they cry, or are urinating less than normal in a 24-hour period
  • Have yellowing of the eyes, lining of the mouth, and skin
  • Dark (tea-colored) urine
  • Have a fever that is not responsive to antipyretics
  • Change in behavior
  • Are experiencing abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea making them unable to eat or drink

This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.