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Indianapolis doctor offers advice to parents as mysterious hepatitis illness affects kids

Doctor shortage 110819
Posted at 3:06 PM, May 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-01 15:06:23-04

INDIANAPOLIS — An Ascension St. Vincent transplant surgeon is explaining more about recent severe cases of hepatitis in children.

So far there have been cases in multiple states, but not Indiana. Officials in six states — Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, New York, North Carolina and Wisconsin — have confirmed to ABC News that they have are investigating cases.

As of April 26, the Associated Press reported around 190 cases worldwide, of which 140 are in Europe. It was first identified in Britain.

Dr. Alex Cantafio says hepatitis is used to describe inflammation of the liver and is caused by different things, most commonly by a virus.

"What's unusual in this case is a virus that does not commonly cause hepatitis ... is causing a severe inflammation of the liver that can lead to enough liver damage that folks have required a liver transplant for lifesaving treatment," Cantafio said.

He says worldwide, the number of cases of this illness is very low. He says the medical community is trying to figure out what's happening and why.

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"I think the way we approach an illness is [to] really try to rapidly identify what the cause is but also treat the patients, what's hurting them and prevent the illness, whatever the cause is, from overwhelming them," Catafio said. "In these cases when kids come in sick and they have liver inflammation, our goal is absolutely to figure out why but more importantly take care of them so they can get over it."

Cantafio says the likelihood is low Indiana would see a significant outbreak and encourages parents to continue routine care for their kids.

"I think the most important thing is not to become too alarmed and communicate closely with your healthcare provider if you have symptoms you're concerned about," he said.

Symptoms could include severe abdominal pain, nausea or changes in urine or skin color. Cantafio says there aren't any unusual symptoms associated with hepatitis.