After monitoring escalating cases of acute hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) in young children in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the World Health Organization (WHO) has now issued a multi-country health alert. According to WHO reports, 12 countries have now reported severe hepatitis in otherwise healthy children, including the United States.
On April 21, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued their own nationwide health alert after nine cases of unexplained hepatitis were identified in Alabama. North Carolina has also reported cases since this time.
The cause of this health concern is still being reviewed, but authorities are speculating that adenovirus might be to blame. Adenovirus, specifically adenovirus type 41 (which more commonly causes pediatric acute gastroenteritis), has been found in a large number of the affected children. The concern is that if the hepatitis is a result of contracting adenovirus, it is potentially contagious.
What is Adenovirus?
According to the CDC, adenoviruses are common viruses that can cause a range of illnesses. They can cause cold-like symptoms, fever, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, pink eye (conjunctivitis) and more. People can contract an adenovirus infection at any age, but those with weakened immune systems are normally most susceptible.
There are more than 50 types of adenoviruses that can impact humans and these non-enveloped viruses are relatively resistant to common disinfectants. As a result, they can live for days or months on surfaces. These viruses spread from infected people through touching (shaking hands), through the air (coughing and sneezing) or by touching contaminated surfaces and transferring the virus to the mouth, nose or eyes.
How to Combat Adenovirus?
Because this is a non-enveloped virus, not all disinfectants will be effective at killing it. The CDC recommends using disinfectants that carry kill claims for norovirus (a similar, non-enveloped virus). These disinfection options are outlined on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) List G.
Custodial professionals should strictly follow product label instructions for proper application and dwell times to guarantee effective kill claims. Only when used correctly can workers guarantee effectiveness.
What to Watch For
Health officials comment that hepatitis and adenovirus have a few similar symptoms to watch for, including diarrhea and nausea. But there are a few specific symptoms associated with hepatitis. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, severe abdominal pain, fatigue, dark-colored urine, light-colored stool and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) are all very common in children with hepatitis.
If children show these symptoms, they should be seen by a doctor. If hepatitis is identified, the CDC also recommends requesting tests to detect adenovirus.
Health officials remind people that basic public health precautions will provide protection from contracting the virus. That includes washing hands properly, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, staying home when you are sick, covering your cough or sneeze, disinfecting surfaces and keeping hands away from faces and eyes.
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