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Hepatitis in children reported in 10 states; Researchers say adenovirus may be linked to liver disease outbreak

At least 10 states are reporting an alarming increase in cases of severe hepatitis – or inflammation of the liver – in children.

Previously healthy children suddenly develop hepatitis or inflammation of the liver often caused by viruses. Jaundice, diarrhea and abdominal pain are among the reported symptoms. Children aged 1 month to 16 years have been affected.

In Minnesota, one of the latest cases to be reported, two children required liver transplants. One of them is still waiting.

Wisconsin issued a health alert after four cases were reported, including one that resulted in death. Causes have also been reported in Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

It comes days after the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shared clinical data from Alabama, where the first cases were discovered, showing patients came from different parts of the state with no epidemiological links.

MORE: A mysterious liver disease in children is spreading in the United States and Europe

According to the CDC’s analysis, all patients were considered generally healthy with no significant comorbidities and no weak immune systems. The median age was about three years, ranging from under two to over five.

Still, researchers believe the Alabama cases show a possible link to a virus that can cause colds.

Of the nine Alabama patients, five also contracted adenovirus. While there are 50 known adenoviruses, these five children all contracted the same strain, known as “type 41”.

Curiously, most adenoviruses, including type 41, often cause only respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms and not severe hepatitis.

It is still unclear whether this virus is a cause or somehow contributing to the outbreak. Researchers have said that any number of viruses, environmental toxins, and even drugs can cause severe hepatitis.

Early symptoms of hepatitis include fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, joint pain, and jaundice.

Jillian King’s 8-year-old daughter Riley was hospitalized with hepatitis last week in Illinois.

“[She experienced] stomach pain, fatigue and lack of appetite for about a week. Her overall energy level was going up and down, so it was really hard to tell she was as sick as she was,” King told ABC News.

“I felt like someone was stabbing me in a row, like it really hurt,” Riley added.

She is expected to make a full recovery.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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