Wisconsin health officials confirm one child has died due to mysterious new liver disease

NOW: Wisconsin health officials confirm one child has died due to mysterious new liver disease

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin health officials confirm one child has died in the state after contracting a little-understood liver disease.

The CDC is investigating the acute hepatitis, which has been identified in several US states and foreign countries. This acute hepatitis is impacting otherwise healthy children. Hepatitis is a general term indicating liver inflammation.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has identified at least four cases in the state. Two children had severe outcomes: one needed a liver transplant, the other died.

Dr. Greg Demuri, a pediatric infectious disease physician with UW Health Kids, said, "Disturbingly in some of these cases, the liver failure has been very severe and required liver transplantation. So this is something that potentially could result in death."

It's a race against time as the medical community tries to understand the acute hepatitis disease.

Hepatitis can be caused by different things, and many of them are viruses. But while the CDC says all patients tested negative for hepatitis viruses, they tested positive for what's called an adenovirus.

Dr. Demuri said, For the adenovirus, which is one of the possible causes of this outbreak, there are some treatments, they're fairly heavy handed and would only be used in relatively severe situations."

Those treatments can include medication for mild cases or transplantation for the worst cases.

In a typical year, four to six Wisconsin children are hospitalized with hepatitis. Symptoms include stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and yellowing of the skin or eyes; what's called jaundice.

Dr. Demuri said, Parents should make sure their children are up to date on hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines. Those are given in childhood and are two very preventable causes of hepatitis."

The CDC and World Health Organization are trying to gather more information, starting with blood tests or biopsies. Then hepatologists or liver specialists will develop a battery of tests to detect the cause.

Doctors believe this disease is having such an impact because immature immune systems cannot fight it off. Dr. Demuri said, "I think it might not do so much with the liver of the child as the immune system of the child that their immune system is less experienced in handling these and getting rid of these infections."

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has not shared additional information about the acute hepatitis cases in the state. And DHS is not sharing where the affected children live.

Share this article: