Public Health Crisis: Liver Disease

Following an outbreak of acute hepatitis in young children in 16 countries, the World Health Organization started an investigation into the origin. It found that around 14 percent of the children recently diagnosed also required liver transplants as a result. Liver transplants are usually rather uncommon in cases of autoimmune hepatitis; however, the recent spike draws attention to the larger issue of liver failure among children.

The CDC is now investigating cases in 25 states of 109 children who have been treated for liver injury or liver failure. Five of these cases resulted in the death of the child, and 15 of them required a liver transplant. There is a widespread misconception that children cannot suffer from liver disease, and as a result this can become deadly when proper treatment is not sought after.

 In the United States 15,000 children are hospitalized a year for one of over a hundred kinds of liver disease. Out of these cases around half suffer from nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is liver damage that is caused by a buildup of fat. Over the last three decades, the prevalence of these diseases has been steadily rising. 

Due to the fact that genetically inherited liver diseases are so rare, they do not receive an abundance of research or data concerning how many people are affected. Liver transplants are the second most common organ transplant. However, because these diseases are so commonly misdiagnosed, untreated, and misunderstood less than 10% of necessary transplants are performed. 

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