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Getting Answers: concerns over cases of pediatric hepatitis

Western Mass News is getting answers after the Mass. Department of Public Health confirmed two cases of pediatric hepatitis in the state.
Updated: May. 10, 2022 at 10:00 PM EDT
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EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Western Mass News is getting answers after the Mass. Department of Public Health confirmed two cases of pediatric hepatitis in the state.

It’s unclear where in the Bay State those two cases were reported and while this does appear to be rare, it is causing concerns for parents we caught up with, so we took their questions to a local doctor to get answers.

Some parents told Western Mass News they’re concerned after Mass. DPH confirmed it was investigating two cases of pediatric hepatitis in Massachusetts.

“Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, which is a very large organ that lives in our right upper quadrant of our abdomen,” said Dr. John Kelley with Redwood Pediatrics.

We caught up with Kelley to find out what parents should keep in mind and he said right now, it’s important not to panic.

“This is really rare. This is nothing that’s on my radar screen as a big concern in western Mass. or anywhere in Massachusetts for that matter,” Kelley explained.

However, parents we caught up with had questions.

“Hepatitis is not something that a lot of us are educated on, so it’s almost like we don’t know what to expect,” said Tanyka Barnett of Springfield.

Barnett has four kids under the age of 15 and she’s wondering what can be done to prevent this infection.

“Do they get vaccinated against hepatitis like when they’re younger?” Barnett asked.

Kelley told us that answer is yes.

“Hepatitis B vaccine, which we give to all newborns and kids get three doses before age one, and the Hepatitis A vaccine is given at a year and then also six months later at 18 months of age,” Kelley added.

He added that good cleanliness is another way to prevent it. We wanted to know what symptoms parents should look out for.

“If your child has fatigue, sudden onset of nausea, vomiting, which are pretty common symptoms, abdominal pain, dark urine, yellowness of their eyes or their skin, that could be a sign of hepatitis,” Kelley explained.

How serious can this infection be?

“Worst case scenario, very bad hepatitis, the liver can stop functioning entirely and then that person would need a transplant,” Kelley said.

Kelley told us the most common forms of hepatitis in the united states are A, B, and C, but what’s different about these pediatric cases is they don’t appear to fall under any of these categories, so doctors don’t know what’s causing it.

“There’s been some link with adenovirus, which is a common virus that causes the common cold, but from what I’ve read, the two cases in Massachusetts were adenovirus negative,” Kelley noted.

Kelley told us hepatitis is diagnosed through blood testing and if a patient was positive, they would be sent to a subspecialist for treatment.

Providers are being asked to report any suspicious cases of hepatitis in kids to Mass. DPH at (617) 983-6800.

To protect the privacy of these children, Mass. DPH is not releasing any additional details while these cases are under investigation.