Six cases of pediatric hepatitis reported in Kentucky: what you need to know

In a Team Kentucky Update Thursday, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack says there's no cause for concern yet

FRANKFORT/VERSAILLES, Ky. (WTVQ) – Six new cases of hepatitis in Kentucky, all in children eight months to four years old, are now under investigation by the Kentucky Department for Public Health and the Center for Disease Control.

“It’s not yet clear if this is an actual increase in the number of children with hepatitis or whether we’ve gotten better at recognizing and identifying it,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack.

Dr. Stack addressed the Commonwealth during a Team Kentucky Update Thursday, saying while the cause of these cases are unknown, it could be linked to adenovirus 41, which causes respiratory and sometimes stomach flu-like symptoms in children. However, he says the link has only been found in two of the six cases in Kentucky. Dr. Stack also emphasized that the COVID-19 vaccine was not a cause of the sickness.

“We’re just trying to learn more and I think that’s the most disturbing part of this is we don’t know, there’s just so much we don’t know,” said Woodford County Health Department Director Cassie Prather.

Kentucky is not the only state seeing cases on the rise recently: according to the CDC, 274 probable pediatric cases have been reported in 39 states. Despite the numbers, Dr. Stack says there’s no need to panic.

“In many ways, it’s a wait and see, it’s important for parents to understand when they see the news reports for us to try to alleviate needless anxiety, where they cause themselves more distress when they can’t change what the trajectory will be,” said Dr. Stack.

Dr. Stack says symptoms to look out for are prolonged fevers, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or signs of liver inflammation, like yellow eyes or skin.

Prather says to contact your doctor if symptoms last more than a day.

“Anything that doesn’t subside in 24 hours is typically our rule of thumb. I say that as a parent. Kids are going to have viruses, but if you’re not seeing a fever go away, that’s always a cause for concern,” said Prather.

Though the risk is low right now, Dr. Stack emphasizes reminding your children about proper hygiene.

“For parents right now, the important thing is to constantly educate and train children to wash hands, cover cough, make sure they’re vaccinated for all preventable diseases, and pay careful attention to their child,” said Dr. Stack.

For more information on hepatitis, go to cdc.gov/hepatitis.

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