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See Acute Hepatitis? Consider COVID-19, NY Case Suggests

What your doctor is reading on Medscape.com:

APRIL 09, 2020 — A woman presented to the emergency department with high liver enzyme levels and dark urine. She developed fever on day 2 of care, and then tested positive for the new coronavirus, researchers at Northwell Health, in Hempstead, New York, report.

The authors say the case, published online in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, is the first documented instance of a patient with COVID-19 presenting with acute hepatitis as the primary symptom before developing respiratory symptoms.

Prior data show that the most common early indications of COVID-19 are respiratory symptoms with fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, and cough, and with imaging results consistent with pneumonia. However, liver enzyme abnormalities are not uncommon in the disease course.

“In patients who are now presenting with acute hepatitis, people need to think of COVID,” senior author David Bernstein, MD, chief of the Division of Hepatology at Northwell Health, told Medscape Medical News.

In addition to Bernstein, Praneet Wander, MD, also in Northwell’s hepatology division, and Marcia Epstein, MD, with Northwell’s Department of Infectious Disease, authored the case report.

Bernstein said Northwell currently has the largest number of COVID-19 cases in the nation and that many patients are presenting with abnormal liver test results and COVID-19 symptoms.

He said that anecdotally, colleagues elsewhere in the United States are also reporting the connection.

“It seems to be that the liver enzyme elevations are part and parcel of this disease,” he said.

Case Details

According to the case report, the 59-year-old woman, who lives alone, came to the emergency department with a chief complaint of dark urine. She was given a face mask and was isolated, per protocol.

“She denied cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain,” the authors

She had well-controlled HIV, and recent outpatient liver test results were normal. Eighteen hours after she came to the ED, she was admitted, owing to concern regarding rising liver enzyme levels in conjunction with her being HIV positive.

On presentation, her temperature was 98.9° F. There were no skin indications, lungs were normal, and “there was no jaundice, right upper quadrant tenderness, hepatomegaly or splenomegaly.”

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