CDC on Thursday issued a nationwide health alert over a cluster of severe hepatitis cases in children across multiple states, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from California, Georgia, Illinois, and Texas.
- California: The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on Thursday announced the launch of a Spanish- and English-language chatbot designed to help spread reliable information about Covid-19 and the safety of vaccines, making California the first state to implement this type of tool. The platform was created under a partnership between the CDPH and WhatsApp, as part of the state's push to fight Covid-19 misinformation. In particular, the chatbot is meant to reach the state's Latino community. "Our mission to keep California safe from the threat of COVID-19 is not over, and we must continue to keep our communities informed on how we can continue moving toward the new normal we all long for," said Tomás Aragón, CDPH director and state public health officer. "That is why we are meeting even more Californians where they are, and spend time every day, by presenting reliable, accurate information on a trusted platform and in the language they speak." (Saric, Axios, 4/21)
- Georgia: CDC on Thursday issued a nationwide health alert after a cluster of severe hepatitis cases was reported across several states. From October 2021 to February of this year, the Alabama Department of Public Health identified nine unexplained hepatitis cases in children under the age of 10. While none of the infected children died, several developed liver failure and two needed liver transplants. Notably, all the children tested positive for adenovirus infections, including adenovirus type 41, which causes diarrhea, vomiting, and respiratory symptoms. In addition, North Carolina detected two similar cases in school-aged children who have since recovered. "No cause has been found and no common exposures were identified," said Bailey Pennington, a spokesperson for the state's Department of Health and Human Services. In the Alabama cases, CDC said it has already ruled out multiple common causes of liver inflammation, including hepatitis A, B, and C. "At this time, we believe adenovirus may be the cause for these reported cases, but investigators are still learning more — including ruling out other possible causes and identifying other possible contributing factors," the agency said. (Branswell, STAT News, 4/21; Anthes, New York Times, 4/22)
- Georgia/Illinois/Texas: Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and American Airlines this week announced that they will allow certain passengers who were previously banned from flights over mask violations to board flights again on a case-by-case basis—a move that comes just days after a federal judge in Florida struck down the Biden administration's mask mandate for airplanes and mass transit, which caused many airlines to lift their mask mandates. While many customers will regain flight privileges, those who remain on Delta and American's permanent no-fly list will still not be allowed to board flights, including individuals whose mask violations escalated into assault. According to a statement from United, the airline plans to allow some customers to return after "ensuring their commitment to follow all crewmember instructions on board." (Chen, Axios, 4/21)