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Global cases of liver disease in children are still on the rise, with experts still claiming the cause is a mystery.

In April, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced an investigation into worldwide instances of liver disease in young children. 

WHO’s April data showed 169 cases of acute hepatitis (liver inflammation) of unknown origin from 11 countries in the WHO European Region, and one country in the WHO Region of the Americas.

Hepatitis is believed to be related to infections of the adenovirus.

Recently, the WHO announced that the outbreaks of pediatric hepatitis are a “moderate global risk” and increased the number of confirmed cases to 650. Of the 650 cases, the WHO says nearly 60% were in Europe, with 34% in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. More than 200 probable cases were reported in the U.S.

Also, in April, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) announced that nine Alabama children less than 10 years old had been identified as positive for adenovirus

When the April data was released, 17 children had required liver transplants, and at least one death had been reported. No new information on pediatric death or liver transplants was available.

The children were discovered through a collaborative effort of the ADPH, pediatric healthcare providers – including hospitals that treat children– and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The affected children presented to healthcare providers in different areas of Alabama with symptoms of a gastrointestinal illness and varying degrees of liver injury, including liver failure. Later analyses revealed a possible association of this hepatitis with Adenovirus 41.

The CDC acknowledges that the cause of this massive spike in pediatric hepatitis is still a mystery. However, both are investigating the adenovirus as a possible cause.

Adenoviruses are common viruses that cause a range of illnesses, such as:

  • common cold or flu-like symptoms

  • fever

  • sore throat

  • acute bronchitis (inflammation of the airways of the lungs, sometimes called a “chest cold”)

  • pneumonia (infection of the lungs)

  • pink eye (conjunctivitis)

  • acute gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach or intestines causing diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain)

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