CHICAGO – Many parents across Chicagoland are on alert after the Illinois Department of Health issued a severe hepatitis warning in wake of three suspected cases in children.

Two cases have been reported in suburban Chicago and one in western Illinois.

The warning comes after an outbreak of rare hepatis cases in young children in eleven countries, including a cluster of nine cases among healthy Alabama children here in the U.S.

So, what should parents know, and do to keep their child healthy?

WGN News Now spoke to Dr. Vincent Biank, pediatric gastroenterologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital, Northshore University Healthsystem and the Chicagoland Children’s Health Alliance for some advice.

First, Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can be caused by viruses, autoimmune conditions or even medications.

Health officials believe a common virus called the adenovirus may be the culprit for the outbreak.

Biank said the virus typically causes symptoms resembling that of the common cold and parents shouldn’t be too concern unless their child shows symptoms outside of the norm. “The biggest concern would be jaundice or yellowing of the eyes, changes in mental status, easy bleeding or bruising, or discolored urine.”

Biank said Adenovirus is a common seasonal virus that occurs in the Spring and Fall that affects children in the form of flu like symptoms such as cough, cold, runny nose, and fever.

But he added this strain is affecting the GI tract and liver more than the respiratory tract.

The World Health Organization reports seeing patients as young as one month and as old as 17 years of age being affected by the virus.

Biank suggested parents make sure their children wash their hands before eating any food or touching their face, plus avoid contact with sick people.

Now, if your child is sick, he said parents should monitor their symptoms, and if they show signs of jaundice or changes in mental status, seek medical attention.

The symptoms of hepatitis in children are as follows:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine 
  • Light-colored stools
  • Joint pain 
  • Jaundice