MASON, Ohio — Doctors across the country are still trying to figure out what is causing a mysterious rise in pediatric hepatitis cases. At this time, 39 states are reporting cases in children mostly under the age of 5.
Liviah Widders, 4, was one of those cases. On Dec. 22, Widders' parents noticed some symptoms of jaundice and got worried.
“The yellowing of her eyes, any kind of yellow skin, the really dark urine, the clay-colored stool,” said Jack Widders, Liviah’s father.
The next few weeks would be an emotional rollercoaster for the Widders family.
“When we first saw her hooked up to everything, it was really hard for us,” Elizabeth Widders said. “The doctors were great — they were trying to ease our minds, but we both just had to step away and breathe.”
Widders was being cared for by doctors at Cincinnati Children’s that have dealt with issues of the liver. They ran tests and determined she had Adenovirus, a common virus that is usually mild but in Liviah’s case, her liver was failing and she needed a transplant.
“This thing is moving so quick and you are literally watching your daughter essentially deteriorate into near-death,” Jack Widders said.
Since April, health officials in the United States have looked at more than 250 cases of pediatric hepatitis. Dr. Balistreri with Cincinnati Children’s has been investigating local cases and their potential connection to Adenovirus.
“We’ve seen cases of hepatitis of unknown origin that progresses to liver transplant,” Balistreri said. “The key difference is not just increased numbers but the fact that we are seeing these patients earlier.”
Balistreri said it is good families are becoming aware of the mysterious rise in cases because both parents and the medical community are able to properly test the liver when the symptoms arise.
“Honestly it's a hard line as a parent,” Jack Widders said. “Because you can't react to every throw-up or every cold because everyone will always be in the hospital.”
The symptoms of severe hepatitis in children are:
- Abdominal Pain or Swelling
- Dark Colored Urine
- Light Colored Stool
Widders was able to get a new liver and while she is doing well, her family said she will be at a higher risk of contracting other illnesses for the rest of her life. Her father said the 4-year-old will need daily doses of immunosuppressants, medication and frequent doctors visits.
The Widders family has set up a donation page through the Children’s Organ Transplant Association. With donations, the agency creates a fund for transplant recipients to draw from when needed.
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