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'It’s life-changing': 4-year-old Valley girl's battle with unknown case of hepatitis is among many popping up across the country

Almost a year after Quinn Cunha was diagnosed with hepatitis, the family still doesn't have an explanation as to why her liver was inflamed.

PHOENIX — Almost a year later, and a year older, Quinn is a typical little kid, keeping track of her next birthday coming up soon. 

“I’m gonna be four!” Quinn says sitting on her mom’s lap. 

“We’re so lucky and thankful,” Stefanie Cunha, Quinn’s mom, said. “She is thriving and she is doing so good.” 

It was July 2021 when Cunha noticed something off about her 3-year-old daughter. The usually happy-to-eat kid she’d come to know wasn’t eating or drinking as much. 

“I started noticing jaundice, which is like the yellowing of her skin,” Cunha said. “And even the white part of her eyes started getting yellow.” 

Cunha said her pediatrician’s office called with lab results telling her to get Quinn to a pediatric hospital right away. 

At Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Quinn would be diagnosed with hepatitis, which is the technical term for an inflamed liver. 

Quinn would end up staying there for weeks. 

“It just got worse and worse,” Cunha said. 

Quinn would end up needing a liver transplant and while it’s been almost a year, the family still has many questions. 

“We don’t have a reason as to what led us to this,” Cunha said. 

Now, across the country, the Centers for Disease Control are looking to figure out why severe hepatitis cases are popping up with unknown causes. 

“We at Phoenix Children’s have seen an uptick in hepatitis cases,” Dr. Sheetal Wadera, Medical Director of Liver Transplant at Phoenix Children’s Hospital said. 

Wadera said they’re evaluating those cases internally. 

Currently, the Arizona Department of Health Services has confirmed at least one case in Arizona is under investigation related to the CDC’s advisory. 

“Hepatitis can literally be due to hundreds of causes,” Wadera said. 

Wadera said what makes these cases of hepatitis the CDC is investigating different is some kids also have an adenovirus infection. 

“This strain is specifically found in the lower GI tract, so may lead to diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and this hasn't been reported before. And so that's why this is new,” Wadera said. 

Wadera said most kids are recovering with some needing a liver transplant. Currently, Wadera said there are no links to COVID or the COVID vaccines. 

“We’re happy that it’s getting the publicity that it is,” Cunha said. 

Cunha said she’s grateful the hepatitis cases across the U.S. are being looked into, especially knowing the lasting effects some kids could deal with. 

“It’s life-changing,” Cunha said. 

Cunha said she wanted to share what her family has been through in hopes it helps others. 

"If you have any suspicions in the slightest, I would recommend you know, go to your pediatrician,” Cunha said. 

Wadera said parents know their kids best. Adding parents should keep an eye out for any yellowing of the skin or eyes or if kids are experiencing prolonged nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. In those situations, Wadera said it’s best to take kids to their pediatrician. 

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