Why Mass. health officials are investigating 2 cases of pediatric hepatitis

Researchers around the world are studying a mysterious outbreak in children.

The CDC, along with the Mass. Department of Public Health, is investigating mysterious instances of pediatric hepatitis. Bloomberg

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health recently announced that it is investigating two cases of pediatric hepatitis in the state. The DPH is collaborating with local boards of health, health care providers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

While the department has said that no additional details are being released about these cases, the investigation presents a clear continuation of a wider effort to learn more about mysterious cases of hepatitis in children. 

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It is normally caused by one of the hepatitis viruses — hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. However, these viruses have been ruled out as the cause of the new hepatitis cases, NBC 10 Boston reported. The children are not showing evidence of COVID-19, and many are too young to have received the COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC has ruled out SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as a factor in the cases in Alabama. 

Most of the patients have fully recovered and have been discharged from the hospital, according to the CDC.


Researchers believe that an adenovirus could be the cause since many of the children with hepatitis have tested positive for an adenovirus. Both of the cases in Massachusetts have tested negative for adenovirus infection, according to NBC 10 Boston. 

Adenoviruses are fairly common. They can cause a wide range of symptoms such as fever, sore throat, pneumonia, or gastroenteritis, according to the CDC. 

The strange hepatitis cases were first reported in Alabama last October, according to STAT News. On May 6, the CDC announced that it is investigating 109 cases of severe hepatitis in children, including five deaths, throughout the country. The World Health Organization is investigating similar outbreaks around the world, including cases in the United Kingdom, Spain, Israel, and Denmark. 

Most of the cases did not have a fever, WHO reports, but did exhibit gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. International travel and links to other countries based on the currently available information are not factors, WHO said. 

Some medical professionals are not ruling out a link between these hepatitis cases and COVID-19. 

“Inflammation is a major cardiovascular #LongCovid effect. It’s therefore plausible long term inflammation of the liver is possible too,” Epidemiologist & health economist Eric Feigl-Ding wrote on Twitter in April. 

A number of the affected children in the U.K. have tested positive for adenoviruses and for SARS-CoV-2. This could be a leading suspect, STAT News reported, citing a scientific article on the Scottish cases that was published in the online journal Eurosurveillance.


The pandemic could be affecting these hepatitis cases in other ways, even if an adenovirus is found to be the cause. Many young children haven’t been exposed to a normal assortment of germs because of social distancing rules during the pandemic, which could make them more vulnerable once those regulations are lifted, according to STAT News. 


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