North Carolina has doubled its reported total of hepatitis cases, from four to nine, as the mysterious infections continue to pop up around the country.
State health officials reported the updated figures on Wednesday night, WRAL reports. North Carolina was among the first states to report a case of the disease late last month.
In total, the U.S. has recorded 115 confirmed or suspected cases of the condition in 26 states and Puerto Rico. Five children died from the disease, and 15 required liver transplants.
Missouri officials also increased the state’s running total of confirmed and suspected hepatitis cases to ten on Wednesday as well.
Also Thursday, Irish officials reported the country’s first death from the condition, marking at least ten worldwide from the mysterious liver illness.
The exact cause of the mysterious hepatitis is currently unknown. The adenovirus – which is often associated with the common cold – is the lead suspect, though not all children who have had the disease so far have tested positive for it.
Q&A: What is the mysterious global hepatitis outbreak and what is behind it?
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that is usually caused by a viral infection or liver damage from drinking alcohol.
Some cases resolve themselves, with no ongoing issues, but a fraction can be deadly, forcing patients to need liver transplants to survive.
What are the symptoms?
People who have hepatitis generally have fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools and joint pain.
They may also suffer from jaundice — when the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow.
Why are experts concerned?
Hepatitis is usually rare in children, but experts have already spotted more cases in the current outbreak than they would normally expect in a year.
Cases are of an ‘unknown origin’ and are also severe, according to the World Health Organization. It has caused up to two deaths and 18 liver transplants.
What are the top theories?
Experts say the cases may be linked to adenovirus, commonly associated with colds, but further research is ongoing.
This, in combination with Covid infections, could be causing the spike in cases.
The WHO reported adenovirus has been detected in at least 74 of the cases. At least 20 of the children tested positive for the coronavirus.
British experts tasked with investigating the spate of illnesses believe the endless cycle of lockdowns may have played a contributing role.
Restrictions may have weakened children’s immunity because of reduced social mixing, leaving them at heightened risk of adenovirus.
This means even ‘normal’ adenovirus could be causing the severe outcomes, because children are not responding to it how they did in the past.
Other scientists said it may have been the adenovirus that has acquired ‘unusual mutations’.
This would mean it could be more transmissible or better able to get around children’s natural immunity.
New Covid variant
UKHSA officials included ‘a new variant of SARS-CoV-2’ in their working hypotheses.
Covid has caused liver inflammation in very rare cases during the pandemic,…